Edmund D. Brodie III

Professor of Biology and Director of Mountain Lake Biological Station, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA.

Presentation Title: Time to change the channel: Predator-prey arms races and the evolution of toxin resistance in snakes

Arms races between predators and dangerous prey can lead to rapid and elaborate counter-adaptation. Newts of the genus Taricha possess the sodium channel blocker tetrodotoxin (TTX), which is lethal to most predators. Garter snakes have repeatedly evolved resistance to TTX through their ecological interaction with toxic newts. Sodium channel genes are highly conserved across vertebrates, yet garter snakes have evolved resistance through a few key mutations in these proteins in a very short evolutionary time. Snake species around the world have evolved TTX resistance through the same set of mutations, painting a clear picture of constraint driven convergent evolution. Understanding the molecular mechanism of adaptation helps explain the dynamics of predator-prey arms races in this system, wherein predators sometimes "win" the race, but prey never do.

Lab Website: http://faculty.virginia.edu/brodie/
Mountain Lake Research Station: http://mlbs.org/

Recent Publications

Dr. Brodie’s lab website includes pdfs of many of his recent publications. The following papers may be of particular interest.

Brodie, E. D. III. 2010. Patterns, Process, and the Parable of the Coffeepot Incident: Arms Races Between Newts and Snakes from Landscapes to Molecules. In Losos, J. In the Light of Evolution: Essays from the Laboratory and Field, Roberts and Co. Publishers, ISBN: 9780981519494

This essay is from In the Light of Evolution: Essays from the Laboratory and Field edited by Jonathan Losos (Roberts and Company Publishers). The book will publish in December, 2010. ISBN # 9780981519494. Other contributors include: James Curtsinger, Ted Daeschler, Douglas Emlen, Harry Greene, Luke Harmon, Daniel Lieberman, Jonathan Losos, Axel Meyer, Teri J. Orr, Naomi Pierce, Andrew Berry, David C. Queller, Neil Shubin, David Reznick, Michael Ryan, Marlene Zuk, and Carl Zimmer. Includes a foreword by David Quammen.

Hanifin, C. F., E. D. Brodie Jr., and E. D. Brodie III. 2008. Phenotypic mismatches reveal escape from arms-race coevolution. PLoS Biology 6:471-482. e60.doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0060060

Feldman, C. R., E. D. Brodie Jr., E. D. Brodie III, and M. E. Pfrender. 2009. The evolutionary origins of beneficial alleles during the repeated adaptation of garter snakes to deadly prey. PNAS: 106:13415-13420.

Geffeney, S. L., E. Fujimoto, E. D. Brodie III, E. D. Brodie, Jr., and P.C. Ruben. 2005. Evolutionary diversification of TTX-resistant sodium channels in a predator-prey interaction. Nature 434:759-763.

Resources for Teaching

Dr. Brodie’s web page has relevant figures from select papers for discussions.

Frey, F. M., Lively, C.M., Brodie, E.D. III. 2009 Selection and Evolution with a Deck of Cards. Evo Edu Outreach Vol 3(1):114-120 doi:10.1007/s12052-009-0201-9
'This article…describes a classroom exercise that introduces the concept of evolution by natural selection in an hypothesis-driven, experimental fashion, using a deck of cards…suitable for upper-level high school and introductory (college) biology students.'

Toxic Newts

From PBS Evolution
A video of the Brodies’ research on coevolution between newts and garter snakes. See Butch Brodie “barf” a garter snake and learn how the Brodies measure garter snake resistance to newt toxins. May be used with the following case study.

Biological Warfare and the Evolutionary Arms Race

From Understanding Evolution
A case study based on the Brodies’ research.