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Toxins 2016, 8(6), 188; doi:10.3390/toxins8060188

Is Hybridization a Source of Adaptive Venom Variation in Rattlesnakes? A Test, Using a Crotalus scutulatus × viridis Hybrid Zone in Southwestern New Mexico

1
Molecular Ecology and Fisheries Genetics Lab, School of Biological Sciences, Bangor University, Bangor LL57 2UW, UK
2
Evolutionary and Adaptive Genomics Group, Institute for Biochemistry and Biology, University of Potsdam, Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 24-25, Haus 29, 14476 Potsdam (Golm), Germany
3
Venomics and Structural Proteomics Laboratory, Instituto de Biomedicina de Valencia, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), Jaume Roig 11, 46010 Valencia, Spain
4
Chiricahua Desert Museum, P.O. Box 376, Rodeo, NM 88056, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Bryan Grieg Fry
Received: 6 May 2016 / Revised: 2 June 2016 / Accepted: 9 June 2016 / Published: 16 June 2016
(This article belongs to the Collection Evolution of Venom Systems)
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Abstract

Venomous snakes often display extensive variation in venom composition both between and within species. However, the mechanisms underlying the distribution of different toxins and venom types among populations and taxa remain insufficiently known. Rattlesnakes (Crotalus, Sistrurus) display extreme inter- and intraspecific variation in venom composition, centered particularly on the presence or absence of presynaptically neurotoxic phospholipases A2 such as Mojave toxin (MTX). Interspecific hybridization has been invoked as a mechanism to explain the distribution of these toxins across rattlesnakes, with the implicit assumption that they are adaptively advantageous. Here, we test the potential of adaptive hybridization as a mechanism for venom evolution by assessing the distribution of genes encoding the acidic and basic subunits of Mojave toxin across a hybrid zone between MTX-positive Crotalus scutulatus and MTX-negative C. viridis in southwestern New Mexico, USA. Analyses of morphology, mitochondrial and single copy-nuclear genes document extensive admixture within a narrow hybrid zone. The genes encoding the two MTX subunits are strictly linked, and found in most hybrids and backcrossed individuals, but not in C. viridis away from the hybrid zone. Presence of the genes is invariably associated with presence of the corresponding toxin in the venom. We conclude that introgression of highly lethal neurotoxins through hybridization is not necessarily favored by natural selection in rattlesnakes, and that even extensive hybridization may not lead to introgression of these genes into another species. View Full-Text
Keywords: adaptation; Crotalus; evolution; hybridization; introgression; Mojave toxin; molecular evolution; venom adaptation; Crotalus; evolution; hybridization; introgression; Mojave toxin; molecular evolution; venom
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Zancolli, G.; Baker, T.G.; Barlow, A.; Bradley, R.K.; Calvete, J.J.; Carter, K.C.; de Jager, K.; Owens, J.B.; Price, J.F.; Sanz, L.; Scholes-Higham, A.; Shier, L.; Wood, L.; Wüster, C.E.; Wüster, W. Is Hybridization a Source of Adaptive Venom Variation in Rattlesnakes? A Test, Using a Crotalus scutulatus × viridis Hybrid Zone in Southwestern New Mexico. Toxins 2016, 8, 188.

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