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J Chem Ecol. 2004 Oct;30(10):1901-19.

A resistant predator and its toxic prey: persistence of newt toxin leads to poisonous (not venomous) snakes.

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  • 1Department of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley, 3060 Valley Life Sciences Building # 3140, Berkeley, CA 94720-3140, USA.


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 microg of TTX in the liver. This amount could severely incapacitate or kill avian predators, and mammalian predators may be negatively affected as well.

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