Mutants in the Hudson

Hudson River Atlantic tomcod in Science

Sadly, his mutation doesn't involve lasers shooting out of his eyes.

Here's something weird and kind of amazing: researchers led an NYU School of Medicine scientist reported last week in the journal Science that a species of fish in the Hudson River has evolved protections against PCBs. And it only took about 50 years.

The Atlantic tomcod is known for its ability to survive in water heavily polluted with PCBs, but scientists weren't sure why. So the research team collected fish from spots in the Hudson that are full of PCBs, as well as fish from other less-polluted rivers in the region. After analyzing the genomes of the collected fish, they found the tomcod in the heavily polluted water carry a small gene variant that appears to allow them to suffer fewer of the effects of PCB exposure.

The researchers say a few of the fish from the relatively unpolluted water also carried this special gene, so they figure it had already been present at low levels in tomcod populations prior to the pollution. But when GE started dumping PCBs into the river in 1947, these few mutants suddenly had an advantage. And now almost all the tomcod in the Hudson carry the mutation. (PCBs were banned in 1976.)

Said Isaac Wirgin, the NYU population geneticist who led the study, in a release: "We think of evolution as something that happens over thousands of generations. But here it happened remarkably quickly."

More coverage: NatGeo | Wired | AP

By the way: the Hudson River dredging project is scheduled to start back up again in late spring.

photo of an Atlantic tomcod from the Hudson River: Science/AAAS

Comments

Although, after marinating in PCBs, you will find that they are indeed...ill-tempered.

Say Something!

We'd really like you to take part in the conversation here at All Over Albany. But we do have a few rules here. Don't worry, they're easy. The first: be kind. The second: treat everyone else with the same respect you'd like to see in return. Cool? Great, post away. Comments are moderated so it might take a little while for your comment to show up. Thanks for being patient.

The Scoop

Ever wish you had a smart, savvy friend with the inside line on what's happening around the Capital Region? You know, the kind of stuff that makes your life just a little bit better? Yeah, we do, too. That's why we created All Over Albany. Find out more.

Recently on All Over Albany

The week ahead

Here are a few things to keep in mind, look forward to, or keep busy with this week, from the weather (classic), to swimming pools,... (more)

A quick recap of the week

Here are a few highlights from the past week on AOA: + Sandy looked at whether light rail is right for the Capital Region right... (more)

Today's moment of summer

Euclid Ave in Albany.... (more)

Downtown Albany outdoor movie series survey

The Downtown Albany BID is setting up an outdoor movie series for later this summer and fall. And it's looking for input on which movies... (more)

Another record year for New York State maple syrup production

New York State set a new modern record for maple syrup production this year, the Cuomo admin announced Friday. The Empire State produced 707,000 gallons... (more)

Recent Comments

... I can't overstate enough how wrong stereotypes about school districts can be. A lot of people have preconceived notions about places, both positive and negative, that don't always match reality until you and your child experience it yourself. ...

On Lark Street, not extinct

...has 3 comments, most recently from T-Rex

Another record year for New York State maple syrup production

...has 2 comments, most recently from Alex

Weekend Destination: Finger Lakes

...has 6 comments, most recently from Laura

Today's moment of summer

...has 2 comments, most recently from Greg

Downtown Albany outdoor movie series survey

...has 1 comment, most recently from greg