The genomic landscape of rapid repeated evolutionary adaptation to toxic pollution in wild fish

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  09 Dec 2016:
Vol. 354, Issue 6317, pp. 1305-1308
DOI: 10.1126/science.aah4993

You are currently viewing the abstract.

View Full Text

Mapping genetic adaptations to pollution

Many organisms have evolved tolerance to natural and human-generated toxins. Reid et al. performed a genomic analysis of killifish, geographically separate and independent populations of which have adapted recently to severe pollution (see the Perspective by Tobler and Culumber). Sequencing multiple sensitive and resistant populations revealed signals of selective sweeps for variants that may confer tolerance to toxins, some of which were shared between resistant populations. Thus, high genetic diversity in killifish seems to allow selection to act on existing variation, driving rapid adaptation to selective forces such as pollution.

Science, this issue p. 1305; see also p. 1232


Atlantic killifish populations have rapidly adapted to normally lethal levels of pollution in four urban estuaries. Through analysis of 384 whole killifish genome sequences and comparative transcriptomics in four pairs of sensitive and tolerant populations, we identify the aryl hydrocarbon receptor–based signaling pathway as a shared target of selection. This suggests evolutionary constraint on adaptive solutions to complex toxicant mixtures at each site. However, distinct molecular variants apparently contribute to adaptive pathway modification among tolerant populations. Selection also targets other toxicity-mediating genes and genes of connected signaling pathways; this indicates complex tolerance phenotypes and potentially compensatory adaptations. Molecular changes are consistent with selection on standing genetic variation. In killifish, high nucleotide diversity has likely been a crucial substrate for selective sweeps to propel rapid adaptation.

View Full Text