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Science. 1992 Oct 30;258(5083):799-801.

Homobatrachotoxin in the genus Pitohui: chemical defense in birds?

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  • 1Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Chicago, IL 60637.


Three passerine species in the genus Pitohui, endemic to the New Guinea subregion, contain the steroidal alkaloid homobatrachotoxin, apparently as a chemical defense. Toxin concentrations varied among species but were always highest in the skin and feathers. Homobatrachotoxin is a member of a class of compounds collectively called batrachotoxins that were previously considered to be restricted to neotropical poison-dart frogs of the genus Phyllobates. The occurrence of homobatrachotoxin in pitohuis suggests that birds and frogs independently evolved this class of alkaloids.

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