Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 30, Issue 10, pp 1901–1919 | Cite as

A Resistant Predator and Its Toxic Prey: Persistence of Newt Toxin Leads to Poisonous (Not Venomous) Snakes

  • Becky L. Williams
  • Edmund D. BrodieJr.
  • Edmund D. BrodieIII


The Common Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) preys upon the Rough-skinned Newt (Taricha granulosa), which contains the neurotoxin tetrodotoxin (TTX) in the skin. TTX is toxic, large quantities are present in a newt, and highly resistant snakes have the ability to ingest multiple newts; subsequently snakes harbor significant amounts of active toxin in their own tissues after consuming a newt. Snakes harbor TTX in the liver for 1 mo or more after consuming just one newt, and at least 7 wk after consuming a diet of newts. Three weeks after eating one newt, snakes contained an average of 42 μg of TTX in the liver. This amount could severely incapacitate or kill avian predators, and mammalian predators may be negatively affected as well.

Tarichagranulosa Thamnophissirtalis toxicity resistance chemical defense tetrodotoxin aposematism coevolution 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Becky L. Williams
    • 1
  • Edmund D. BrodieJr.
    • 2
  • Edmund D. BrodieIII
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Integrative BiologyUniversity of California, BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyUtah State University, LoganUtahUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiologyIndiana University, BloomingtonIndianaUSA

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