The Atlantic Killifish Remarkably resistant

Organisms living in the Diamond Alkali Superfund Site in New Jersey have absorbed many toxic chemicals from the waste produced by the manufacture of DDT and Agent Orange that has been dumped into the Passaic River in Newark, New Jersey.

The Diamond Alkali Superfund Site in Newark, New Jersey

Many of these organisms have managed to adapt to their environments, and according to a study published in Science Magazine, the Atlantic killifish is a prime example of evolution in action. In the 1990s, scientists had first become aware that the killifish was able to survive in highly polluted waters. The new study revealed that over just a few decades several independent populations of killifish in highly polluted waters had evolved similar genetic adaptations that allowed them to survive.

Atlantic killifish

This is significant because the killifish are a useful example of how animals respond to rapidly changing and extreme conditions in their environments. The scientists found that one genetic pathway was the source for the pollution tolerance, but that each population had developed slightly different patterns of change, allowing the killifish embryos to survive toxic chemicals that other fish embryos could not.

Atlantic killifish embryo unaffected by toxins (left) and another fish embryo poisoned by the chemicals (right).

Researchers believe that this rapid evolution was possible because of wide genetic diversity within the killifish populations that may have contained rare mutations that allowed some killifish to survive the toxins.

The polluted Passaic River in New Jersey.

But we can't take this fish as proof of why we shouldn't worry about climate change and pollution. Some species may be able to adapt quickly, as the killifish were, but many cannot and will simply disappear.

"There's probably going to be lots of species out there that can't [adapt]."

I picked this article because it shows the consequences of pollution as well as nature's response to changes in the environment. I also chose it because it involves a river not far from here, in Newark, NJ, and because it shows tha these problems aren't far from home.

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