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

Made in Troy: The Iris Lamp

Check it out: A Troy-based company called Lightexture is making these adjustable "iris" lamps that create a range of light patterns. The company is... (more)

Jingle all the way, all the time

The conversion of 105.7 FM to "Santa 105.7," an all-Christmas music, all year long format, is either 1) A herald that the end times will... (more)

What's up in the Neighborhood

Among the topics in this most recent spin around the Capital Region's online neighborhood: Albany's problems and challenges, neighborhoods and community, failing schools, parking stupid,... (more)

Solid Sound 2015 lineup

The lineup for the Solid Sound Festival this summer at MASS MoCA is now out. It's headlined by Wilco -- because, you know, it's Wilco's... (more)

AOA Birthday Party 7

Let it be known: This year's AOA Birthday Party -- the seventh, unbelievably -- is later this month. And you're invited (obviously). AOA7 will be... (more)

Recent Comments

... But some of the negatives mentioned could be flipped into positives, after all the 1980 games was seen as a toned down version of previous events. In terms of Olympic infrastructure, Lake Placid has most of it already. ...

AOA Birthday Party 7

...has 8 comments, most recently from Jona

Three reasons why bringing the Olympics back to New York State is a bad idea

...has 4 comments, most recently from Sean

Byrne Dairy ice cream sandwiches

...has 5 comments, most recently from Daniel B.

Orange is the new green

...has 1 comment, most recently from Sue

Park South redevelopment plan gets final OK

...has 30 comments, most recently from daleyplanit