To investigate the mystery of the hunters’ deaths, Butch began by studying the newts. Rough-skinned newts, like the one found in the coffee pot, live along the west coast of the United States. The newts’ brown backs blend into their surroundings; but when disturbed, the newts do something strange: they curl their heads and tails towards each other to show off their bright orange bellies. Why? Well, other brightly colored animals like monarch butterflies and coral snakes are poisonous or venomous. Their bright colors warn predators, “Back off, I’m dangerous!” Perhaps, Butch reasoned, the orange belly of the rough-skinned newt sends a similar message — perhaps the newts are poisonous.
Dig deeper: find out more about organisms that warn their predators away in Aposematic Animals.