Chemical Ecology of the North American Newt Genera Taricha and Notophthalmus

Charles T. Hanifin, Yuta Kudo, Mari Yotsu-Yamashita

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The North American newt genera Taricha and Notophthalmus (order Caudata) are well known for the combination of potent toxicity, aposematic coloration, and striking defense postures that protects these animals from predation. This suite of traits is centered around the neurotoxin tetrodotoxin, which causes paralysis and death in metazoans by disrupting the initiation and propagation of electrical signals in the nerves and muscles. Tetrodotoxin defends newts from predation across multiple life history stages and its role in generating arms-race coevolution between Taricha newts and garter snake (genus Thamnophis) predators is well studied. However, understanding the broader picture of chemical defenses in Taricha and Notophthalmus requires an expanded comprehension of the defensive chemical ecology of tetrodotoxin that includes possible coevolutionary interactions with insect egg predators, protection against parasites, as well as mimicry complexes associated with tetrodotoxin and aposematic coloration in both genera. Herein the authors review what is known about the structure, function, and pharmacology of tetrodotoxin to explore its evolution and chemical ecology in the North American newt. Focus is made specifically on the origin and possible biosynthesis of tetrodotoxin in these taxa as well as providing an expanded picture of the web of interactions that contribute to landscape level patterns of toxicity and defense in Taricha and Notophthalmus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-130
Number of pages30
JournalProgress in the chemistry of organic natural products
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Batesian mimicry
  • Caudata
  • Coevolution
  • Keystone molecule
  • Newts
  • Notophthalmus
  • Salamandridae
  • Taricha
  • Tetrodotoxin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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