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Mutated frog gene repels predators

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Post-doctoral researcher Andrés Posso-Terranova and his former supervisor José Andrés have found evidence that a single gene called MC1R controls the deep black color on the skin of these poisonous frogs. The researchers have found that the disruption of the gene is responsible for the black blobs and stripes. Their results have been published this week in the international journal Evolution.

Post-doctoral researcher Andrés Posso-Terranova and his former supervisor José Andrés have found evidence that a single gene called MC1R controls the deep black color on the skin of these poisonous frogs. The researchers have found that the disruption of the gene is responsible for the black blobs and stripes. Their results have been published this week in the international journal Evolution.

“We knew the same gene stimulates the production of black pigment in other animals, but it’s also responsible for camouflage in mice and red hair in humans,” said Andrés, U of S biology professor. “There was no evidence of a correlation with coloration of frogs until now.”

The black patterns provide a sharp contrast to the dart frogs’ bright colours—red, yellow and orange—to send a highly detectable warning signal to predators such as snakes that the frogs are toxic, much like the coloring of wasps and bumblebees.

“These warning patterns are very effective and they are easily learned by predators,” said Posso-Terranova.

 

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Photo via University of Saskatchewan.