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Sodium ion channel alkaloid resistance does not vary with toxicity in aposematic Dendrobates poison frogs: An examination of correlated trait evolution

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Spatial heterogeneity in the strength or agents of selection can lead to geographic variation in ecologically important phenotypes. Many dendrobatid frogs sequester alkaloid toxins from their diets and often exhibit fixed mutations at NaV1.4, a voltage-gated sodium ion channel associated with alkaloid toxin resistance. Yet previous studies have noted an absence of resistance mutations in individuals from several species known to sequester alkaloid toxins, suggesting possible intraspecific variation for alkaloid resistance in these species. Toxicity and alkaloid profiles vary substantially between populations in several poison frog species (genus Dendrobates) and are correlated with variation in a suite of related traits such as aposematic coloration. If resistance mutations are costly, due to alterations of channel gating properties, we expect that low toxicity populations will have reduced frequencies and potentially even the loss of resistance alleles. Here, we examine whether intraspecific variation in toxicity in three dendrobatid frogs is associated with intraspecific variation in alleles conferring toxin resistance. Specifically, we examine two species that display marked variation in toxicity throughout their native ranges (Dendrobates pumilio and Dgranuliferus) and one species with reduced toxicity in its introduced range (Dauratus). However, we find no evidence for population-level variation in alkaloid resistance at NaV1.4. In fact, contrary to previous studies, we found that alkaloid resistance alleles were not absent in any populations of these species. All three species exhibit fixed alkaloid resistance mutations throughout their ranges, suggesting that these mutations are maintained even when alkaloid sequestration is substantially reduced.

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