Changes in predator exposure, but not diet induce phenotypic plasticity in scorpion venom

Gangur, Alexander, Smout, Michael, Liddell, Michael, Seymour, Jamie, Wilson, David, and Northfield, Tobin (2017) Changes in predator exposure, but not diet induce phenotypic plasticity in scorpion venom. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B, Biological Sciences, 284 (1863).

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View at Publisher Website: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2017.1364
 
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Abstract

Animals embedded between trophic levels must simultaneously balance pressures to deter predators and acquire resources. Venomous animals may use venom toxins to mediate both pressures, and thus changes in this balance may alter the composition of venoms. Basic theory suggests that greater exposure to a predator should induce a larger proportion of defensive venom components relative to offensive venom components, while increases in arms races with prey will elicit the reverse. Alternatively, reducing the need for venom expenditure for food acquisition, for example due to an increase in scavenging, may reduce the production of offensive venom components. Here, we investigated changes in scorpion venom composition using a mesocosm experiment where we manipulated scorpions’ exposure to a surrogate vertebrate predator and live and dead prey. After six weeks, scorpions exposed to surrogate predators exhibited significantly different venom chemistry compared to naïve scorpions. This change included a relative increase in some compounds toxic to vertebrate cells, and a relative decrease in some compounds effective against their invertebrate prey. Our findings provide, to our knowledge, the first evidence for adaptive plasticity in venom composition. These changes in venom composition may increase the stability of food webs involving venomous animals.

Item ID: 49908
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1471-2954
Date Deposited: 21 Aug 2017 00:43
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060202 Community Ecology (excl Invasive Species Ecology) @ 60%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060207 Population Ecology @ 20%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0601 Biochemistry and Cell Biology > 060101 Analytical Biochemistry @ 20%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 70%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970103 Expanding Knowledge in the Chemical Sciences @ 30%
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