Theory predicts that predator–prey interactions can generate reciprocal selection pressures on species pairs, which can result in local adaptation, yet the presence and pattern of local adaptation is poorly studied in vertebrate predator–prey systems. Here, we used a reciprocal common garden (laboratory) experimental design involving comparisons between local and foreign populations to determine if local adaptation was present between a generalist predator—the pigmy rattlesnake (Sistrurus miliarius)—and a co-occurring prey—the squirrel treefrog (Hyla squirella). We conducted toxicity trials using snake venom from two populations separated by 340 km tested on prey from sympatric and allopatric populations, resulting in data from four venom origin–frog origin combinations. We assessed venom effectiveness using two measures (frog mortality at 24 h and time to frog death) and then used regression analyses to look for a signal of local adaptation with either measure. We found evidence for local adaptation for one measure (time to death), but not the other (frog mortality). We argue that in this system, the time to death of a prey item is a more ecologically relevant measure of venom effectiveness than is frog mortality at 24 h. Our results document an example of local adaptation between two interacting vertebrates using a whole-organism assay and a local versus foreign criteria and provide evidence that population-level variation in snake venom is adaptive.
Oecologia – Springer Journals
Published: May 17, 2017
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