Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 31, Issue 2, pp 343–356 | Cite as

Parallel Arms Races between Garter Snakes and Newts Involving Tetrodotoxin as the Phenotypic Interface of Coevolution

  • Edmund D. BrodieIII
  • Chris R. Feldman
  • Charles T. Hanifin
  • Jeffrey E. Motychak
  • Daniel G. Mulcahy
  • Becky L. Williams
  • Edmund D. BrodieJr.


Parallel “arms races” involving the same or similar phenotypic interfaces allow inference about selective forces driving coevolution, as well as the importance of phylogenetic and phenotypic constraints in coevolution. Here, we report the existence of apparent parallel arms races between species pairs of garter snakes and their toxic newt prey that indicate independent evolutionary origins of a key phenotype in the interface. In at least one area of sympatry, the aquatic garter snake, Thamnophis couchii, has evolved elevated resistance to the neurotoxin tetrodotoxin (TTX), present in the newt Taricha torosa. Previous studies have shown that a distantly related garter snake, Thamnophis sirtalis, has coevolved with another newt species that possesses TTX, Taricha granulosa. Patterns of within population variation and phenotypic tradeoffs between TTX resistance and sprint speed suggest that the mechanism of resistance is similar in both species of snake, yet phylogenetic evidence indicates the independent origins of elevated resistance to TTX.


Coevolution parallel evolution resistance Taricha tetrodotoxin TTX Thamnophis toxicity 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Edmund D. BrodieIII
    • 1
  • Chris R. Feldman
    • 2
  • Charles T. Hanifin
    • 2
  • Jeffrey E. Motychak
    • 2
  • Daniel G. Mulcahy
    • 2
  • Becky L. Williams
    • 2
    • 3
  • Edmund D. BrodieJr.
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of BiologyIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyUtah State UniversityLoganUSA
  3. 3.Department of IntegrativeBiology University of CaliforniaUSA

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