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Earth Science

Fish Evolve Immunity To Toxic Sludge 267

Posted by samzenpus
from the what-does-not-kill-me dept.
RedEaredSlider writes "Fish in the Hudson River and the harbor in New Bedford, Mass., have evolved resistance to PCBs. In the Hudson, a species of tomcod has evolved a way for a very specific protein to simply not bind to PCBs, nearly eliminating the toxicity. In New Bedford, the Atlantic killifish has proteins that bind to the toxin (just as they do in mammals) but the fish aren't affected despite high levels of PCBs in their cells. Why the killifish survive is a mystery."
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Fish Evolve Immunity To Toxic Sludge

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  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Sunday October 30, 2011 @03:55PM (#37887618)

    Ananda Chakrabarty developed a microorganism that actual feeds on PCBs by simple selection in his lab some 40 years ago.

    We have weeds that have evolved resistance to glyphosate in the wild. That is a much more impressive adaptation because glyphosate interferes with the production of key amino acids by plants.

    Life on earth has been adapting and evolving to its environment for billions of years. Why would anyone think it would stop?

    • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Sunday October 30, 2011 @04:01PM (#37887646) Homepage Journal

      Single-celled organisms are generally a lot more flexible when it comes to environmental stress than multi-cellular organisms are, and among the latter, plants are generally more flexible than animals. Observing this kind of adaptation in animals is pretty impressive. Nobody expects life to stop adapting to the environment, but there are limits; e.g., humans aren't going to evolve resistance to being shot in the head, no matter how many times it happens.

      • by moderatorrater (1095745) on Sunday October 30, 2011 @04:49PM (#37887874)
        When you put it like that, my life's work sounds like mere homocide.
      • by tp1024 (2409684)
        There is also the case of the Freshwater Sardinella [wikipedia.org] that evolved from seawater sardines that were caught in Lake Taal, after the Mount Taal volcano erupted in the 18th century and closed the direct connection with the sea. Rainwater pushed out the saltwater, but some Sardines survived the transition.

        Evolution doesn't take millions of years. (Although, admittedly, the longer the time span the more impressive the results - including those that are impressively resistant to change.)
      • by argStyopa (232550)

        Humans have evolved a resistance to being shot in the head, it's just not a simple mechanical/physiological resistance.

        It's called society.

        And yes, I understand that's not what you meant - but my point is more to illustrate that coping strategies, patterns of behavior, and one might even suggest meta organizations like societies are just as clearly evolved (I very deliberately use that word) to reduce the likelihood of random violence, or at least an individual's susceptibility thereto.

        I know that Social Co

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      >Why would anyone think it would stop?

      Because the American education system teaches that evolution is a fabrication of liberal anti-God scientists.

      • by AK Marc (707885)
        You left out "secular" The American education system describes "secular" as God-hating amoral atheists who hate all people who beleive in God, and strangely self-identifies as "secular" as well (though the non-secular groups, especially in the South, do get into local board power level and deliberately sabotage the federal and state mandates for minimum education, claiming that teaching logic and other things that might confuse students about God is anti-religion, and thus unconstitutional). And they dese
    • Life on earth has been adapting and evolving to its environment for billions of years. Why would anyone think it would stop?

      Most often, because evolution also says we are one of its byproduct, and while we can look at ourselves and say "Hell yeah! Evolution!", the moment we go outside we're like "what the sh** f*** happened to everybody else?"

  • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Sunday October 30, 2011 @03:56PM (#37887622) Homepage Journal

    That which kills other fish only makes them stronger!

  • by tebee (1280900) on Sunday October 30, 2011 @04:08PM (#37887670)

    So what happens to the animals that eat them and that aren't immune to the PCB?

    And you know who is at the top of the food chain ......

    • by shentino (1139071)

      Sounds like humanity's just desserts for polluting the food web in the first place.

      I call it environmental karma.

      • by artor3 (1344997)

        You think the robber barons responsible for the pollution eat anything fished out of the Hudson? Fat chance. If the toxins do work their way up the food chain, it'll be the peasant class that suffers for it.

      • Sounds like humanity's just desserts for polluting the food web in the first place.

        You eat fish for dessert?

    • by zAPPzAPP (1207370)

      Cthulu?

    • Well maybe among our 7 billion there are enough breeding pairs that are also resistant. The way we're running the world we might find out.

    • by NFN_NLN (633283)

      So what happens to the animals that eat them and that aren't immune to the PCB?

      Much like how Sharks are resistant to cancer and eating their fins will "transfer the ability to you"; so will eating Killifish transfer PCB immunity to you.

      Killifish will now become a high priced delicacy in China. Or as we like to call it, operation payback.

    • by GuldKalle (1065310) on Sunday October 30, 2011 @04:33PM (#37887810)

      If we ignore humans for a second, the next link in the food chain will either develop PCB resistance or learn not to eat that species. And then, the fish may use this poison actively as a defense mechanism.
      Oh evolution, you are cool!

      • by tebee (1280900)

        Oh evolution, you are cool!

        Yep it sure is - Now can some what explain to me why the F*ck 40% of a supposed advanced nation still deny it's existence ?

        Or do we wait for a time were either their god sends them a sign that they should believe in it or there is some subtle change in the chance of their offspring surviving such that they eventually die off - though then we won't get the satisfaction of telling them they were wrong.

        • by tftp (111690)

          Now can some what explain to me why the F*ck 40% of a supposed advanced nation still deny it's existence?

          Religion offers an easy way to become immortal. Science promises nothing of the sort, and atheists must be comfortable knowing that their death is final and there is no afterlife. See Pascal's Wager [wikipedia.org].

      • Or the next link's numbers will be impacted depending on how much of their diet is from the fish.

    • I suppose those animals would be fucked. Oh hey!

    • So what happens to the animals that eat them and that aren't immune to the PCB?

      Depends - have you had the new PCB-binding protein spliced in yet?

  • Problem solved!
  • Soon totally new organisms will crawl out of that river and demand welfare and voting rights.

  • Dumping on fish (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kanto (1851816) on Sunday October 30, 2011 @04:17PM (#37887714)

    Even though a single evolutionary change can mean the difference between living and dying I would think it also effect everything else, especially when it has to do with metabolism. In this case the fishs' genes have found a local maxima, so to say, that makes them resistant to PCB; nobody knows what evolutionary possibilities they've sacrificed and what it does to them in the long run.

    • The article suggests that the change really isn't that big. In fact, the summary is a little misleading, as they have a very good idea of why the fish are surviving.
  • This is gonna make it much harder to finally wipe them out.
  • ...only they will be healthy. I, for one, welcome our new piscine masters.

  • cookoo canary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by epine (68316) on Sunday October 30, 2011 @04:31PM (#37887798)

    It says a lot about PCB distribution and signal strength if multiple species have evolved responses over sub-century time frames.

    It was convenient while it lasted for the fish who ingested our industrial waste stream to grow carbuncles and remove themselves from the human menu by simple visual inspection. But I guess we're heading back to the days where the host takes a brave first bite, and all the guests applaud if dinner proceeds. We'll all be double checking the Russian royal penumbra to ensure our host doesn't carry any midichlorians of Rasputin lineage.

    Canaries in the coal mine all the way up the food chain. Tag, you're it.

  • ...you refer to selection as evolution. Selection is well understood, and pretty much everyone from the most fundamental creationist to the most outspoken evolutionist will agree on the fact that when a species is faced with an unavoidable situation in which most of them will be killed off, only those that exhibit traits allowing them to survive will persist to pass on their genes. If it can be demonstrated that not a single one of them had that trait previously, then that would be interesting, to be sure,

    • If so, all they need to accept now is the fact that random gene mutations happen, and they'll accept evolution as actually happening. The starting point and the origin may be still debatable, but I dare say that it's hard for creationists to deny actual evolution happening on this planet as we speak, and in the past.
    • ...you refer to selection as evolution. Selection is well understood, and pretty much everyone from the most fundamental creationist to the most outspoken evolutionist will agree on the fact that when a species is faced with an unavoidable situation in which most of them will be killed off, only those that exhibit traits allowing them to survive will persist to pass on their genes

      And everyone from the most fundamental creationist to the least fundamental creationist will continue to deny reality long after anyone who isn't a member of their cult accepts it.

    • by Spad (470073) <slashdot AT spad DOT co DOT uk> on Sunday October 30, 2011 @05:31PM (#37888148) Homepage

      Repeat after me: "Evolution does not work that way".

      Evolution isn't something that magically allows plants and animals to adapt to a specific set of circumstances, that is an entirely random process. This mutation probably happened decades or centuries ago (or possibly even *due* to the PCBs, which would be ironic but difficult to prove) and has now, as you've said, been brought to prominence because all the fish without it have died off due to the high levels of PCBs in the water.

      The fish *have* evolved immunity to the toxic sludge, but it's not a causative statement and hopefully wasn't intended as such.

    • All genes have tons of variants, and these variants had to be introduced into the population at some time. Evolution doesn't need to for traits to be introduced due to environmental pressures in order to work; they are introduced at random by mutations. So whether the trait was introduced before or after the dumping of PCBs began really isn't that interesting as it is just a matter of chance, and doesn't prove anything about evolution. The interesting part is that it occurred at all.

      These fish couldn't be s

    • by VoidCrow (836595)

      Selection, operating on any given population (in the absence of a continuous source of fresh genetic diversity in the form of, say, random mutation), will tend to reduce the genetic diversity of the population in response to any given environmental stress. Given time and successive random environmental stresses, this will tend to drive the population to extinction.

      Unless of course God sits in the background, manually fucking with his designs to make them work.

      Actually, I can see that this might explain the

      • That's referring to the idea of "microevolution", which they later define further down the page, and which is, itself, a bit of a misnomer since it merely refers to adaptation and selection. I'll repeat again: it's an overstatement to refer to selection as "evolution". It's a mechanic of it, but it is not it.

  • IOW, the others just died from the PCB and the ones that we have now are the survivors. As per Darwin prediction. Excellent, in a marauding way.

  • Evolution is a tricky argument for we the living.

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