Tuesday 23rd November 2021, 4-5pm on MS Teams. Please note the hour change!
Associate Professor Joel McGlothlin Virginia Tech
Ancient enemies: The evolutionary origins of the predator-prey arms race between snakes and newts
Abstract: Taricha newts are one of the most poisonous animals in world, containing enough of the potent neurotoxin tetrodotoxin (TTX) to kill most predators that would dare to try to eat it. Their primary predator, Thamnophis garter snakes, have evolved resistance to TTX, and are in some cases able to ingest more toxin than a newt could ever produce. Extreme toxicity and extreme resistance have been shown to be the product of an ongoing coevolutionary arms race, with newts evolving ever higher levels of toxicity and snakes becoming more and more resistant. The origins of this arms race, however, have been mysterious. In my talk, I will explore the evolutionary reasons why snakes and newts first became coevolutionary combatants. By tracing the evolution of a single gene family, voltage gated sodium channels, which are the target of TTX, I will show how the current coevolutionary arms race builds upon over 100 million years of evolutionary changes in the ancestors of garter snakes and newts.
30th November, 1-2pm: Dr. Isla Myers-Smith (University of Edinburgh) Title TBC
7th December, 1-2pm: Prof. Chris Thomas (Leverhulme Centre for Anthropocene Biodiversity, University of York) Title TBC