Fast molecular evolution associated with high active metabolic rates in poison frogs

  • Santos J
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Molecular evolution is simultaneously paced by mutation rate, genetic drift, and natural selection. Life history traits also affect the speed of accumulation of nucleotide changes. For instance, small body size, rapid generation time, production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), and high resting metabolic rate (RMR) are suggested to be associated with faster rates of molecular evolution. However, phylogenetic correlation analyses failed to support a relationship between RMR and molecular evolution in ectotherms. In addition, RMR might underestimate the metabolic budget (e.g., digestion, reproduction, or escaping predation). An alternative is to test other metabolic rates, such as active metabolic rate (AMR), and their association with molecular evolution. Here, I present comparative analyses of the associations between life history traits (i.e., AMR, RMR, body mass, and fecundity) with rates of molecular evolution of and mitochondrial loci from a large ectotherm clade, the poison frogs (Dendrobatidae). My results support a strong positive association between mass-specific AMR and rates of molecular evolution for both mitochondrial and nuclear loci. In addition, I found weaker and genome-specific covariates such as body mass and fecundity for mitochondrial and nuclear loci, respectively. No direct association was found between mass-specific RMR and rates of molecular evolution. Thus, I provide a mechanistic hypothesis of the link between AMRs and the rate of molecular evolution based on an increase in ROS within germ line cells during periodic bouts of hypoxia/hyperoxia related to aerobic exercise. Finally, I propose a multifactorial model that includes AMR as a predictor of the rate of molecular evolution in ectothermic lineages.

Author-supplied keywords

  • ectotherms
  • life history
  • metabolic rates
  • molecular evolution
  • path analysis

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  • Juan C. Santos

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