Our new paper on the evolution of toxin resistance in snakes has now been published online in Current Biology. This paper is the result of a fairly large collaboration, including 11 authors from Virginia to the Netherlands. Major thanks go to Megan Kobiela, who did the lion’s share of the bench work for this paper.
In the paper, we show that the coevolutionary arms races with toxic newts that have previously been documented in garter snakes and their relatives depend on over 100 million years of evolutionary change. Specifically, the extreme levels of resistance to toxin that are seen in garter snakes and other snakes depend on evolutionary changes in a voltage-gated sodium channel found in muscles, but the snake families that get into these arms races in the first place inherited toxin-resistant nerves from a distant ancestor.
This graphical abstract from the journal does a good job summarizing the main result. If you’re interested in reading the paper but can’t download it, please send me an email and I’ll be happy to share it.