Linking Predator Responses to Alkaloid Variability in Poison Frogs

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Justin P Lawrence, Bibiana Rojas, Annelise Blanchette, Ralph Saporito, Johanna Mappes, Antoine Fouquet, Brice Noonan


Many chemically-defended/aposematic species rely on diet for sequestering the toxins with which they defend themselves. This dietary acquisition can lead to variable chemical defenses across space, as the community composition of chemical sources is likely to vary across the range of (an aposematic) species. We characterized the alkaloid content of two populations of the Dyeing Poison Frog (Dendrobates tinctorius) in northeastern French Guiana. Additionally, we conducted unpalatability experiments with naive predators, Blue Tits (Cyanistes caeruleus), using whole-skin secretion cocktails to assess how a model predator would respond to the defense of individuals from each population. While there was some overlap between the two D. tinctorius populations in terms of alkaloid content, our analysis revealed that these two populations are markedly distinct in terms of overall alkaloid profiles. Predator responses to skin secretions differed between the populations. We identified 15 candidate alkaloids (including three previously undescribed) in seven classes that are correlated with predator response in one frog population. We describe alkaloid profile differences between populations for D. tinctorius and provide a novel method for assessing unpalatability of skin secretions and identifying which toxins may contribute to the predator response. In one population, our results suggest 15 alkaloids that are implicated in predator aversive response. This method is the first step in identifying the causal link between alkaloids and behavioral response of predators, and thus makes sense of how varying alkaloid combinations are capable of eliciting consistent behavioral responses, and eventually driving evolutionary change in aposematic characters (or characteristics).



Animal Sciences, Behavior and Ethology, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Evolution, Life Sciences, Zoology


Alkaloids, Aposematism, Birds, Dendrobates tinctorius, Unpalatability


Published: 2022-09-21 13:18


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