The British Herpetological Society

The Herpetological Journal is the Society's prestigious quarterly scientific journal. Articles are listed in Biological Abstracts, Current Awareness in Biological Sciences,Current Contents, Science Citation Index, and Zoological Record.

 ISSN 0268-0130

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pdf 04. You are what your ancestors ate: retained bufadienolide resistance in the piscivorous water cobra Naja annulata (Serpentes: Elapidae)


Open Access


pp. 83-87

Authors: Jessica Fletcher, Anita Malhotra & Wolfgang Wüster

Abstract: Predators exploiting chemically defended prey are generally resistant to prey toxins. However, toxin resistance usually incurs a fitness cost and is therefore often lost when no longer needed. Bufonid toads are a frequently abundant food resource, but chemically defended by a group of cardiotonic steroids, bufadienolides. Bufophagous predators have evolved a specific and near-universal mechanism of resistance to these toxins, consisting of two amino acid substitutions in the Na+/K+-ATPase H1–H2 extracellular domain. The dynamics of loss or retention of this adaptation in secondarily non-bufophagous lineages remain inadequately understood. Here we explore this topic by showing that the piscivorous banded water cobra Naja annulata retains the bufadienolide-resistant genotype of the otherwise toad-eating cobra clade. This confirms a trend for secondarily non-toad-eating snakes to retain bufadienolide resistance.

Keywords: Antipredator adaptation, cardiotonic steroid, cardiac glycoside, evolution, piscivory

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