4
$\begingroup$

I wonder whether developing deadly toxins in the organism's body is always or usually a defensive strategy rather than a by-product.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I don't understand the question, spiders, snakes, etc... use it for external digestion of their prey. $\endgroup$ – inf3rno Oct 28 '14 at 22:10
  • $\begingroup$ @inf3rno I wouldn't say it that generally. Animal venoms tend to be a complex mixture of ingredients, with some components that paralyze a victim, while other components may cause death or digest tissues. Snakes don't use external digestion, they swallow the prey whole. $\endgroup$ – user137 Oct 28 '14 at 22:51
  • $\begingroup$ @inf3rno I do not refer to venom used as a weapon. I mean toxins in somatic tissues. $\endgroup$ – Anixx Oct 28 '14 at 23:15
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ There's certainly a spectrum here, from the monarch butterfly(and others) who find their poisons in the environment and store them in their tissues, to some kinds of shark that have high urea contents as a result of their metabolism. The sharks probably retain some of the urea they would otherwise excrete for defense, but I'm not actually certain. If I understand the question correctly it's asking about poisonous organisms, not venomous ones. The difference is crucial to addressing this question. $\endgroup$ – Resonating Oct 29 '14 at 4:40
  • $\begingroup$ @JeremyKemball +1 venom and poison are different terms, I forgot that too... $\endgroup$ – inf3rno Oct 29 '14 at 7:35
1
$\begingroup$

Developing anything by the body takes energy so generally only useful products are conserved. If some sort of mutation caused an organism to produce some sort of by-product that also happened to be toxic to its predators, then that organism is more favored to survive. No species ever starts producing something with the intention of toxicity in a predator/consumer of said species.

These xenobiotics that the plant/animal produces then can either be selected for because they're useful in whatever pathway they are a by-product of. Or they can be conserved because then this by-product has a defense use, regardless of whether the pathway its part of is necessary. Or both could happen, it could be doubly selected for.

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ needs references.. $\endgroup$ – The Last Word Oct 30 '14 at 6:50

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.