Saturday, December 10, 2016

Against the tide: A fish adapts quickly to lethal levels of pollution

In a study led by the University of California, Davis, light was shed on  the vast amount of genetic diversity existing in Atlantic killifish populations. Their genetic variation has led to these fish being resilient against highly toxic industrial pollutants in human-altered environments. In fact, the study found that Atlantic killifish are 8,000 times more resistant to thislevel of pollution than other fish. The study featured the sequencing of the genomes of 400 Atlantic killifish located in four polluted East Coast estuaries: New Bedford Harbor in Massachusetts; Newark Bay, New Jersey; Connecticut's Bridgeport area; and Virginia's Elizabeth River.

What is remarkable about the genetic variation of the Atlantic killifish is that it allows them to adapt quickly to polluted sites in order to survive, speeding evolution. These mechanisms for tolerance were found to already be existing in their genome prior to the environment being altered by humans. The study helps to foster future research which could be centered around determining which genes confer tolerance of specific chemicals and if there are invertebrates similar to humans that exhibit the same amount of sensitivity to chemicals in order to boost our methods of adaptation to habitat change.

I think this work is incredibly useful. Although the Atlantic killifish isn’t one of the most sought-after species, it has a lot it can teach use about being genetically diverse. If researchers can successfully harvest their information it can definitely benefit the human species when it comes to resistance of certain chemicals.

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