Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 39, Issue 11–12, pp 1400–1406 | Cite as

Dietary Alkaloid Sequestration in a Poison Frog: An Experimental Test of Alkaloid Uptake in Melanophryniscus stelzneri (Bufonidae)

  • Maggie M. Hantak
  • Taran Grant
  • Sherri Reinsch
  • Dale Mcginnity
  • Marjorie Loring
  • Naoki Toyooka
  • Ralph A. Saporito


Several lineages of brightly colored anurans independently evolved the ability to secrete alkaloid-containing defensive chemicals from granular glands in the skin. These species, collectively referred to as ‘poison frogs,’ form a polyphyletic assemblage that includes some species of Dendrobatidae, Mantellidae, Myobatrachidae, Bufonidae, and Eleutherodactylidae. The ability to sequester alkaloids from dietary arthropods has been demonstrated experimentally in most poison frog lineages but not in bufonid or eleutherodactylid poison frogs. As with other poison frogs, species of the genus Melanophryniscus (Bufonidae) consume large numbers of mites and ants, suggesting they might also sequester defensive alkaloids from dietary sources. To test this hypothesis, fruit flies dusted with alkaloid/nutritional supplement powder were fed to individual Melanophryniscus stelzneri in two experiments. In the first experiment, the alkaloids 5,8-disubstituted indolizidine 235B' and decahydroquinoline were administered to three individuals for 104 days. In the second experiment, the alkaloids 3,5-disubstituted indolizidine 239Q and decahydroquinoline were given to three frogs for 153 days. Control frogs were fed fruit flies dusted only with nutritional supplement. Gas chromatography/mass spectrometry analyses revealed that skin secretions of all experimental frogs contained alkaloids, whereas those of all control frogs lacked alkaloids. Uptake of decahydroquinoline was greater than uptake of 5,8-disubstituted indolizidine, and uptake of 3,5-disubstituted indolizidine was greater than uptake of decahydroquinoline, suggesting greater uptake efficiency of certain alkaloids. Frogs in the second experiment accumulated a greater amount of alkaloid, which corresponds to the longer duration and greater number of alkaloid-dusted fruit flies that were consumed. These findings provide the first experimental evidence that bufonid poison frogs sequester alkaloid-based defenses from dietary sources.


Arthropods Anura Chemical defense Diet Feeding experiment 



We thank V. Korb for her assistance in frog feeding, and M.A. Nichols for invaluable assistance in maintaining the GC/MS instrument. We extend a special thanks to C.D. Anthony, C. Hickerson, and C.A. Sheil for providing suggestions and comments that improved the quality of this manuscript.TG was supported by Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico Proc. 307001/2011-3 and Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo Proc. 2012/10000-5.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maggie M. Hantak
    • 1
  • Taran Grant
    • 2
  • Sherri Reinsch
    • 3
  • Dale Mcginnity
    • 3
  • Marjorie Loring
    • 4
  • Naoki Toyooka
    • 5
    • 6
  • Ralph A. Saporito
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyJohn Carroll UniversityUniversity HeightsUSA
  2. 2.Departamento de Zoologia, Instituto de Biociências, Universidade de São PauloSão PauloBrazil
  3. 3.Nashville ZooNashvilleUSA
  4. 4.Barry UniversityMiami ShoresUSA
  5. 5.Graduate School of Science and Technology for ResearchUniversity of ToyamaToyamaJapan
  6. 6.Graduate School of Innovative Life ScienceUniversity of ToyamaToyamaJapan

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