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Keywords:

  • amphibian;
  • chemical protection;
  • extrinsic mortality;
  • lifespan;
  • longevity;
  • phylogenetic dependence;
  • senescence;
  • snake;
  • toxic;
  • venom

Abstract

Evolutionary hypotheses for ageing generally predict that delayed senescence should evolve in organisms that experience lower extrinsic mortality. Thus, one might expect species that are highly toxic or venomous (i.e. chemically protected) will have longer lifespans than related species that are not likewise protected. This remarkable relationship has been suggested to occur in amphibians and snakes. First, we show that chemical protection is highly conserved in several lineages of amphibians and snakes. Therefore, accounting for phylogenetic autocorrelation is critical when conservatively testing evolutionary hypotheses because species may possess similar longevities and defensive attributes simply through shared ancestry. Herein, we compare maximum longevity of chemically protected and nonprotected species, controlling for potential nonindependence of traits among species using recently available phylogenies. Our analyses confirm that longevity is positively correlated with body size in both groups which is consistent with life-history theory. We also show that maximum lifespan was positively associated with chemical protection in amphibian species but not in snakes. Chemical protection is defensive in amphibians, but primarily offensive (involved in prey capture) in snakes. Thus, we find that although chemical defence in amphibians favours long life, there is no evidence that chemical offence in snakes does the same.