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Title: Snakes on a plain: biotic and abiotic factors determine venom compositional variation in a wide-ranging generalist rattlesnake
Abstract Background

Snake venoms are trophic adaptations that represent an ideal model to examine the evolutionary factors that shape polymorphic traits under strong natural selection. Venom compositional variation is substantial within and among venomous snake species. However, the forces shaping this phenotypic complexity, as well as the potential integrated roles of biotic and abiotic factors, have received little attention. Here, we investigate geographic variation in venom composition in a wide-ranging rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis viridis) and contextualize this variation by investigating dietary, phylogenetic, and environmental variables that covary with venom.


Using shotgun proteomics, venom biochemical profiling, and lethality assays, we identify 2 distinct divergent phenotypes that characterize major axes of venom variation in this species: a myotoxin-rich phenotype and a snake venom metalloprotease (SVMP)-rich phenotype. We find that dietary availability and temperature-related abiotic factors are correlated with geographic trends in venom composition.


Our findings highlight the potential for snake venoms to vary extensively within species, for this variation to be driven by biotic and abiotic factors, and for the importance of integrating biotic and abiotic variation for understanding complex trait evolution. Links between venom variation and variation in biotic and abiotic factors indicate that venom variation likely results from substantial geographic variation in selection regimes that determine the efficacy of venom phenotypes across populations and snake species. Our results highlight the cascading influence of abiotic factors on biotic factors that ultimately shape venom phenotype, providing evidence for a central role of local selection as a key driver of venom variation.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
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Publisher / Repository:
Springer Science + Business Media
Date Published:
Journal Name:
BMC Biology
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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