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Toxins 2016, 8(7), 193; doi:10.3390/toxins8070193

Tempo and Mode of the Evolution of Venom and Poison in Tetrapods

40 Teilo Street, Dingle, Liverpool, L8 8BS, UK
Department of Evolution, Ecology and Behaviour, University of Liverpool, Crown Street, Liverpool, L69 7ZB, UK
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Bryan Grieg Fry
Received: 27 April 2016 / Revised: 7 June 2016 / Accepted: 14 June 2016 / Published: 23 June 2016
(This article belongs to the Collection Evolution of Venom Systems)
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Toxic weaponry in the form of venom and poison has evolved in most groups of animals, including all four major lineages of tetrapods. Moreover, the evolution of such traits has been linked to several key aspects of the biology of toxic animals including life-history and diversification. Despite this, attempts to investigate the macroevolutionary patterns underlying such weaponry are lacking. In this study we analyse patterns of venom and poison evolution across reptiles, amphibians, mammals, and birds using a suite of phylogenetic comparative methods. We find that each major lineage has a characteristic pattern of trait evolution, but mammals and reptiles evolve under a surprisingly similar regime, whilst that of amphibians appears to be particularly distinct and highly contrasting compared to other groups. Our results also suggest that the mechanism of toxin acquisition may be an important distinction in such evolutionary patterns; the evolution of biosynthesis is far less dynamic than that of sequestration of toxins from the diet. Finally, contrary to the situation in amphibians, other tetrapod groups show an association between the evolution of toxic weaponry and higher diversification rates. Taken together, our study provides the first broad-scale analysis of macroevolutionary patterns of venom and poison throughout tetrapods. View Full-Text
Keywords: chemical weaponry; function; toxin acquisition; macroevolution; phylogenetic comparative method; reptiles; amphibians; birds; mammals chemical weaponry; function; toxin acquisition; macroevolution; phylogenetic comparative method; reptiles; amphibians; birds; mammals

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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Harris, R.J.; Arbuckle, K. Tempo and Mode of the Evolution of Venom and Poison in Tetrapods. Toxins 2016, 8, 193.

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