Stable genetic structure and connectivity in pollution-adapted and nearby pollution-sensitive populations of Fundulus heteroclitus

Joaquin C.B. Nunez, Leann M. Biancani, Patrick A. Flight, Diane E. Nacci, David M. Rand, Douglas L. Crawford, Marjorie F. Oleksiak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Populations of the non-migratory estuarine fish Fundulus heteroclitus inhabiting the heavily polluted New Bedford Harbour (NBH) estuary have shown inherited tolerance to local pollutants introduced to their habitats in the past 100 years. Here we examine two questions: (i) Is there pollution-driven selection on the mitochondrial genome across a fine geographical scale? and (ii) What is the pattern of migration among sites spanning a strong pollution gradient? Whole mitochondrial genomes were analysed for 133 F. heteroclitus from seven nearby collection sites: four sites along the NBH pollution cline (approx. 5 km distance), which had pollution-adapted fish, as well as one site adjacent to the pollution cline and two relatively unpolluted sites about 30 km away, which had pollution-sensitive fish. Additionally, we used microsatellite analyses to quantify genetic variation over three F. heteroclitus generations in both pollution-adapted and sensitive individuals collected from two sites at two different time points (1999/2000 and 2007/2008). Our results show no evidence for a selective sweep of mtDNA in the polluted sites. Moreover, mtDNA analyses revealed that both pollution-adapted and sensitive populations harbour similar levels of genetic diversity. We observed a high level of non-synonymous mutations in the most polluted site. This is probably associated with a reduction in Ne and concomitant weakening of purifying selection, a demographic expansion following a pollution-related bottleneck or increased mutation rates. Our demographic analyses suggest that isolation by distance influences the distribution of mtDNA genetic variation between the pollution cline and the clean populations at broad spatial scales. At finer scales, population structure is patchy, and neither spatial distance, pollution concentration or pollution tolerance is a good predictor of mtDNA variation. Lastly, microsatellite analyses revealed stable population structure over the last decade.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number171532
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 9 2018


  • Genetic variation
  • Microsatellites
  • MtDNA
  • Pollution cline
  • Population genetics
  • SNP

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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