Heritable adaptation and fitness costs in killifish (Fundulus heteroclitus) inhabiting a polluted estuary
Adaptation to contaminants in the environment has been studied extensively in microbes, insects, and plants, and increasing evidence suggests that certain vertebrate populations as well are evolving in response to pollution. Here, we show that F1 and F2 laboratory-raised offspring of killifish (Fundulus heteroclitus, also known as mummichog) from a highly contaminated site on the Elizabeth River (Virginia, USA) are more resistant to the toxicity of Elizabeth River sediments than are offspring of reference site killifish. This resistance is more marked in the F1 than in the F2 generation, but it remains significant in the F2 generation, indicating that the resistant phenotype in the feral Elizabeth River killifish is based on both genetic and nongenetic mechanisms. In addition, both the F1 and F2 generation offspring of the Elizabeth River killifish are more susceptible to other stressors, both anthropogenic (photoenhanced toxicity) and natural (hypoxia), suggesting that the changes that have conferred resistance to the toxicity of the Elizabeth River sediments carry a cost of reduced fitness in other contexts.
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