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Reef fish can genetically adapt to environmental changes

By Leonard Ho - Posted Jul 23, 2015 09:00 AM
A new study by ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies finds that a chromis' genes can change from one generation to the next to adapt to higher temperatures. The finding demonstrates how fish might adapt to warming oceans and also explains why captive bred fish are better suited for captivity than wild-caught fish. It's in the genes!
Reef fish can genetically adapt to environmental changes

The secret of species acclimation to warming oceans across the generations lies in the genes. Image: J. Krajewski

Researchers from ARC at James Cook University reared three successive generations of chromis, Acanthochromis polyacanthus, in aquariums with elevated temperatures. The scientists found that genes responsible for metabolism, stress, and immunity were significantly upregulated from generation to generation, meaning the fish were adapting (rather quickly within one generation to the next) to temperature stress at the genetic level.

The findings show how reef fish may be able to cope with increasing seawater temperatures (within reason) by upregulating specific genes.  More importantly for aquarists and breeders, the discovery reinforces the popularly held belief/experience that captive-bred fish are better suited for captivity than wild-caught fish, and that their adaptability actually occur at the genetic level.

The paper is published in peer-reviewed journal, Nature: Climate Change.

Author: Leonard Ho
Location: Southern California

I'm a passionate aquarist of over 30 years, a coral reef lover, and the blog editor for Advanced Aquarist. While aquarium gadgets interest me, it's really livestock (especially fish), artistry of aquariums, and "method behind the madness" processes that captivate my attention.

Website: http://www.advancedaquarist.com.

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