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Earth Science

Fish Evolve Immunity To Toxic Sludge 267

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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  • 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.

  • 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 Spad ( 470073 ) <> 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.

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