The Science of Dioxin

December 20, 2016 | Complex Torts & Product Liability

Atlantic Killifish Rapidly Adapted to Pollution, Researchers Say

A paper published in the journal Science has concluded that Atlantic killifish populations have rapidly adapted to normally lethal levels of pollution in four urban estuaries.


The paper, entitled, “The genomic landscape of rapid repeated evolutionary adaptation to toxic pollution in wild fish,” is credited to Noah M. Reid, Dina A. Proestou, Bryan W. Clark, Wesley C. Warren, John K. Colbourne, Joseph R. Shaw, Sibel I. Karchner, Mark E. Hahn, Diane Nacci, Marjorie F. Oleksiak, Douglas L. Crawford, and Andrew Whitehead, associated with universities including University of California, Davis, Washington University School of Medicine, Indiana University, Boston University, and the University of Miami as well as agencies and institutions including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

The Study

The authors performed a genomic analysis of geographically separate and independent populations of 384 Atlantic killifish (Fundulus heteroclitus) that recently had adapted to pollution. Their study revealed variants that might confer “tolerance to toxins,” resulting in the same kinds of genetic changes occurred in killifish in separate locations.

According to the authors, “distinct molecular variants apparently contribute to adaptive pathway modification among tolerant populations.”

In the opinion of the authors, in killifish, high nucleotide diversity likely was “a crucial substrate for selective sweeps to propel rapid adaptation.”

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