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Hudson River super mutants defy evolution

10 Aug, 201601:01

Have the fish in New York's Hudson River evolved into 'super mutants'? A large proportion of the river's Atlantic tomcod fish have developed resistance to certain poisons, and the mass media has heralded this as a dramatic example of evolution in action! However, far from supporting microbes-to-man evolution, these mutant fish have actually devolved, not evolved! That's because the fish have become resistant through a loss of genetic information.
Non-resistant fish have special proteins in their cells that allow the poisons to bind. However, due to a genetic mutation, the proteins of resistant fish cannot bind the poisons as readily. So, 'corrupted' proteins have made the fish resistant. And in the poison-rich environment of the Hudson River, it's no wonder that the mutated gene facilitating resistance has quickly spread through the tomcod population. It is misleading to call these changes 'evolution', because evolution requires the addition of new genetic information, but these resistant fish have only demonstrated information loss.

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