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Adaptation costs to constant and alternating polluted environments

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  • Morgan Dutilleul
  • Denis Réale
  • Benoit Goussen
  • Catherine Lecomte
  • Simon Galas
  • Jean-Marc Bonzom


Publication details

JournalEvolutionary applications
DateAccepted/In press - 19 Jun 2017
DatePublished (current) - 1 Sep 2017
Issue number8
Number of pages13
Pages (from-to)839-851
Original languageEnglish


Some populations quickly adapt to strong and novel selection pressures caused by anthropogenic stressors. However, this short-term evolutionary response to novel and harsh environmental conditions may lead to adaptation costs, and evaluating these costs is important if we want to understand the evolution of resistance to anthropogenic stressors. In this experimental evolution study, we exposed Caenorhabditis elegans populations to uranium (U populations), salt (NaCl populations) and alternating uranium/salt treatments (U/NaCl populations) and to a control environment (C populations), over 22 generations. In parallel, we ran common-garden and reciprocal-transplant experiments to assess the adaptive costs for populations that have evolved in the different environmental conditions. Our results showed rapid evolutionary changes in life history characteristics of populations exposed to the different pollution regimes. Furthermore, adaptive costs depended on the type of pollutant: pollution-adapted populations had lower fitness than C populations, when the populations were returned to their original environment. Fitness in uranium environments was lower for NaCl populations than for U populations. In contrast, fitness in salt environments was similar between U and NaCl populations. Moreover, fitness of U/NaCl populations showed similar or higher fitness in both the uranium and the salt environments compared to populations adapted to constant uranium or salt environments. Our results show that adaptive evolution to a particular stressor can lead to either adaptive costs or benefits once in contact with another stressor. Furthermore, we did not find any evidence that adaptation to alternating stressors was associated with additional adaption costs. This study highlights the need to incorporate adaptive cost assessments when undertaking ecological risk assessments of pollutants.

Bibliographical note

© 2017 The Author

    Research areas

  • adaptation costs, Caenorhabditis elegans, evolution towards generalism, experimental evolution, life history strategy, pollution, resistance, salt, uranium

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