Widespread convergence in toxin resistance by predictable molecular evolution

Dr Beata Ujvari (Centre for Integrative Ecology, Deakin)Title: Widespread convergence in toxin resistance by predictable molecular evolution

Authors: Ujvari, Beata; Casewell, Nicholas R.; Sunagar, Kartik; Arbuckle, Kevin; Wuester, Wolfgang; Lo, Nathan; O’Meally, Denis; Beckmann, Christa; King, Glenn F.; Deplazes, Evelyne; Madsen, Thomas

Source: PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 112 (38):11911-11916, SEP 22 2015

Brief summary of the paper: Convergence has strong bearing on the fundamental debate about whether evolution is stochastic and unpredictable or subject to constraints.

Here we show that, in certain circumstances, evolution can be highly predictable. We demonstrate that several lineages of insects, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals have utilized the same molecular solution, via the process of convergence, to evolve resistance to toxic cardiac glycosides produced defensively by plants and bufonid toads.

The repeatability of this process across the animal kingdom demonstrates that evolution can be constrained to proceed along highly predictable pathways at molecular and functional levels.

Our study has important implications for conservation biology by providing a predictive framework for assessing the vulnerability of native fauna to the introduction of invasive toxic toads.