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The effect of newt toxin on an invasive snail

Ota, WilliamM., Olsen, Braden, Bucciarelli, GaryM., Kats, LeeB.
Hydrobiologia 2018 v.817 no.1 pp. 341-348
Potamopyrgus antipodarum, Pseudacris, Taricha torosa, chemical defenses, ecosystems, freshwater, indigenous species, invasive species, macroinvertebrates, mountains, neurotoxins, predation, salamanders and newts, snails, streams, tetrodotoxin, New Zealand
Invasive species are well documented to impact native species where they are introduced. In the Santa Monica Mountains, a native species of amphibian, the California newt (Taricha torosa) possesses a neurotoxin, tetrodotoxin (TTX) that is considered a chemical defense against predation but also appears to facilitate ecological processes and specifically affect freshwater macroinvertebrate behavior. A recently introduced invasive species, the New Zealand mud snail (Potamopyrgus antipodarum), is known to negatively affect ecosystems it invades and means to control its proliferation once introduced are limited. Given the ecological role of newt neurotoxin, we hypothesized that TTX may impact P. antipodarum behavior and tested its effects upon snail movement in laboratory assays and in-stream experiments. When snails were exposed to ecologically realistic TTX concentrations and newt chemical cues that contain TTX they moved significantly less and distance was significantly reduced relative to controls. In a natural stream, significantly more P. antipodarum moved out of areas exposed to newt chemical cues relative to snails in the presence of native tree frog cues (Pseudacris cadaverina). Our results suggest that California newts may help limit the spread of P. antipodarum in streams where T. torosa is both able to persist and possess adequate chemical defenses.