Formicine ants: An arthropod source for the pumiliotoxin alkaloids of dendrobatid poison frogs

Ralph A. Saporito, H. Martin Garraffo, Maureen A. Donnelly, Adam L. Edwards, John T. Longino, John W. Daly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Abstract

A remarkable diversity of bioactive lipophilic alkaloids is present in the skin of poison frogs and toads worldwide. Originally discovered in neotropical dendrobatid frogs, these alkaloids are now known from mantellid frogs of Madagascar, certain myobatrachid frogs of Australia, and certain bufonid toads of South America. Presumably serving as a passive chemical defense, these alkaloids appear to be sequestered from a variety of alkaloid-containing arthropods. The pumiliotoxins represent a major, widespread, group of alkaloids that are found in virtually all anurans that are chemically defended by the presence of lipophilic alkaloids. Identifying an arthropod source for these alkaloids has been a considerable challenge for chemical ecologists. However, an extensive collection of neotropical forest arthropods has now revealed a putative arthropod source of the pumiliotoxins. Here we report on the presence of pumiliotoxins in formicine ants of the genera Brachymyrmex and Paratrechina, as well as the presence of these ants in the stomach contents of the microsympatric pumiliotoxin-containing dendrobatid frog, Dendrobates pumilio. These pumiliotoxins are major alkaloids in D. pumilio, and Brachymyrmex and Paratrechina ants now represent the only known dietary sources of these toxic alkaloids. These findings further support the significance of ant-specialization and alkaloid sequestration in the evolution of bright warning coloration in poison frogs and toads.

LanguageEnglish (US)
Pages8045-8050
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume101
Issue number21
DOIs
StatePublished - May 21 2004
Externally publishedYes

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Ants
Arthropods
Poisons
Alkaloids
Anura
Madagascar
Gastrointestinal Contents
South America
Skin

Keywords

  • Allomones
  • Allopumiliotoxins
  • Cardiotonic activity
  • Chemical defense
  • Myrmicine ants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • General

Cite this

Formicine ants : An arthropod source for the pumiliotoxin alkaloids of dendrobatid poison frogs. / Saporito, Ralph A.; Garraffo, H. Martin; Donnelly, Maureen A.; Edwards, Adam L.; Longino, John T.; Daly, John W.

In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol. 101, No. 21, 21.05.2004, p. 8045-8050.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Saporito, Ralph A. ; Garraffo, H. Martin ; Donnelly, Maureen A. ; Edwards, Adam L. ; Longino, John T. ; Daly, John W. / Formicine ants : An arthropod source for the pumiliotoxin alkaloids of dendrobatid poison frogs. In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2004 ; Vol. 101, No. 21. pp. 8045-8050.
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