An amphibian chemical defense phenotype is inducible across life history stages
Inducible phenotypic responses to environmental variation are ubiquitous across the tree of life, but it remains an open question whether amphibian chemical defense phenotypes are inducible. Tetrodotoxin (TTX) is a key chemical defense trait in North American and Eurasian newts (Salamandridae). We tested if TTX can be induced by exposing populations of adult and larval California newts (Taricha torosa) to sustained stressful conditions while longitudinally quantifying TTX concentrations. Adult newts rapidly increased chemical defenses in response to simulated predator attacks and consistently maintained elevated TTX concentrations relative to wild, non-captive individuals. We also found that laboratory-reared larvae maintained chemical defenses nearly three-fold greater than those of siblings reared in streams. Collectively, our results indicate that amphibian chemical defenses are not fixed. Instead, toxins are maintained at a baseline concentration that can quickly be increased in response to perceived risk with substantial increases to toxicity. Therefore, it is crucial that inducible variation be accounted for when considering ecological dynamics of chemically defended animals and coevolutionary predator-prey and mimic-model relationships.
Bucciarelli, Gary M.; Bradley Shaffer, H.; Green, David B.; and Kats, Lee B., "An amphibian chemical defense phenotype is inducible across life history stages" (2017). Pepperdine University, Faculty Open Access Publications. Paper 90.