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Science. 2002 Aug 23;297(5585):1336-9.

Mechanisms of adaptation in a predator-prey arms race: TTX-resistant sodium channels.

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Department of Biology, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322, USA.


Populations of the garter snake Thamnophis sirtalis have evolved geographically variable resistance to tetrodotoxin (TTX) in a coevolutionary arms race with their toxic prey, newts of the genus Taricha. Here, we identify a physiological mechanism, the expression of TTX-resistant sodium channels in skeletal muscle, responsible for adaptive diversification in whole-animal resistance. Both individual and population differences in the ability of skeletal muscle fibers to function in the presence of TTX correlate closely with whole-animal measures of TTX resistance. Demonstration of individual variation in an essential physiological function responsible for the adaptive differences among populations is a step toward linking the selective consequences of coevolutionary interactions to geographic and phylogenetic patterns of diversity.

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