Toxicity is widespread among living organisms, and evolves as a multimodal phenotype. Part of this phenotype is the ability to avoid self-intoxication (autoresistance). Evolving toxin resistance can involve fitness tradeoffs, so autoresistance is often expected to evolve gradually and in tandem with toxicity, resulting in a correlation between the degrees of toxicity and autoresistance among toxic populations. We investigate this correlation in Phyllobates poison frogs, notorious for secreting batrachotoxin (BTX), a potent neurotoxin that targets sodium channels, using ancestral sequence reconstructions of BTX-sensing areas of the muscular voltage-gated sodium channel. Reconstructions suggest that BTX resistance arose at the root of Phyllobates, coinciding with the evolution of BTX secretion. After this event little or no further evolution of autoresistance seems to have occurred, despite large increases in toxicity throughout the history of these frogs. Our results therefore provide no evidence in favor of an evolutionary correlation between toxicity and autoresistance, which conflicts with previous work. Future research on the functional costs and benefits of mutations putatively involved in BTX resistance, as well as their p...Continue Reading
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