A review of chemical defense in harlequin toads (Bufonidae; Atelopus)

This is a Preprint and has not been peer reviewed. The published version of this Preprint is available: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.toxcx.2022.100092. This is version 3 of this Preprint.

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Supplementary Files

Kannon Pearson, Rebecca Tarvin


Toads of the genus Atelopus are chemically defended by a unique combination of endogenously synthesized cardiotoxins (bufadienolides) and neurotoxins which may be sequestered (guanidinium alkaloids). Investigation into Atelopus small-molecule chemical defenses has been primarily concerned with identifying and characterizing various forms of these toxins while largely overlooking their ecological roles and evolutionary implications. In addition to describing the extent of knowledge about Atelopus toxin structures, pharmacology, and biological sources, we review the detection, identification, and quantification methods used in studies of Atelopus toxins to date and conclude that many known toxin profiles are unlikely to be comprehensive because of methodological and sampling limitations. Patterns in existing data suggest that both environmental (toxin availability) and genetic (capacity to synthesize or sequester toxins) factors influence toxin profiles. From an ecological and evolutionary perspective, we summarize the possible selective pressures acting on Atelopus toxicity and toxin profiles, including predation, intraspecies communication, disease, and reproductive status. Ultimately, we intend to provide a basis for future ecological, evolutionary, and biochemical research on Atelopus.




Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Evolution, Life Sciences, Other Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Other Pharmacology, Toxicology and Environmental Health, Pharmacology, Toxicology and Environmental Health


ecology, zetekitoxin, toxin synthesis, toxin sequestration, toad, tetrodotoxin, South America, methodological bias, evolution, Atelopus, conservation, chiriquitoxin, chemical defense, Central America, Bufonidae, bufadienolide, bacterial symbiosis


Published: 2021-11-29 21:23

Last Updated: 2022-01-14 19:20

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Data and Code Availability Statement:
Data will be included in supplemental files upon publication.