Ellen Heimpel reports on the harmless looking sharp ribbed salamander and the secret weapon it uses to protect itself from attack

Written by Ellen Heimpel
Last updated
Images by David Perez

We’ve all heard of animals that protect themselves by attacking others with sharp body parts; thousands of animals have horns or spikes as a means of protection. But what about those animals without an obvious means of defence? Surely, they would have to come up with other ways of protecting themselves, right? Wrong.

At first look, the sharp-ribbed salamander looks harmless enough. It is a large grey-brown newt with a flat head and a back covered with small warts. However, it has a secret weapon! When attacked, the sharp-ribbed salamander pushes its ribs out of its body and forms a row of bones that act like poisonous barbs. Once threatened the bones rotate to an angle of 50° where they pierce the skin, a process that appears not to harm the newts in any way! The salamanders also secrete a poisonous substance onto their skin, which coupled with their sharp ribs, makes them potentially deadly…

So there you go, let this newt be an example to us all. Even if you don’t look like much, you can still be a force to be reckoned with.