Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

'Undesirable' evolution can be reversed in fish

04.03.2009
In an intriguing 21st century example of Darwinism, researchers demonstrate that fish will again grow to larger sizes and produce more young when size-selective fishing is eased

"Undesirable" evolution in fish – which makes their bodies grow smaller and fishery catches dwindle -- can actually be reversed in a few decades' time by changing our "take-the-biggest-fish" approach to commercial fishing, according to groundbreaking new research published today by Stony Brook University scientists in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Intensive harvesting of the largest fish over many decades, while leaving the small fish behind, may have unintentionally genetically reprogrammed many species to grow smaller, said lead author Dr. David O. Conover, Professor and Dean of the Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences in Long Island, New York. Although Charles Darwin showed 150 years ago that evolution equips life forms to be better adapted to prosper in their environment, unnatural evolution caused by man's size-selective fishing is causing fish to be smaller, less fertile, and competitively disadvantaged. This has also been a loss for commercial fishers who seek big fish for their livelihoods, recreational anglers in pursuit of trophy fish, and seafood consumers who desire large portions on their plates.

This study demonstrates for the first time ever that detrimental evolution in fish can be reversed, and pokes a gaping hole in theoretical models suggesting that genetic changes are impossible to "undo." It is the result of 10 years of research largely supported by a generous grant from the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University.

"This is good news for fisheries, but it also shows that reversal is a slow process," Dr. Conover said. "Over time, fish can return back to their normal size but the reversal process occurs much more slowly than the changes caused by fishing. So the best strategy is still to avoid harmful evolutionary changes in the first place".

Current fishery management plans are generally based upon assessment methods which do not incorporate long-term evolutionary dynamics. It could take years before evolutionary change is incorporated into such plans, since the concept remains quite controversial among scientists.

"It took scientists a long time to reach a consensus on climate change, and acceptance of this phenomenon might require a long time, too," Dr. Conover said.

Dr. Ellen Pikitch, Executive Director of the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science, said, "We now have proof that the negative ramifications of common fishing practices can linger for decades, leaving future generations to grapple with a legacy of diminished ocean productivity. It is essential that fishing be transformed to minimize its evolutionary and broader ecological consequences." Evolutionary dynamics are a fundamental principle of ecosystem-based fishery management (EBFM), a holistic approach that considers the connectedness of different species and the links between species and environmental influences, rather than managing each species in isolation. Dr. Pikitch was among the earliest proponents of EBFM, and lead author of a seminal 2004 article in Science on the concept.

"We have interfered extensively with the natural course of things, and while it is very encouraging that the harmful effects of size-selective fishing may be reversible, the length of the recovery period is sobering," said Dr. Pikitch, who is also a Professor of Marine Science at Stony Brook University. "Restoration of ocean fisheries requires prompt and widespread adoption of an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management."

Fishery management is today largely based upon "minimum size limits," which ban capture of fish below a given size, species by species. With few exceptions, maximum size limits do not exist, so the large fish can easily be "fished out." "This is really bad news for fish because unlike humans, the bigger and older a fish is, the more offspring it produces," Dr. Conover said. "We're talking about a big fish producing ten times more eggs than the same species in a smaller size, but unfortunately, current fishery regulations make it dangerous to be big," The solution is to design regulations to protect large fish, he said. "If we stopped fishing out the largest fish, there would again be a benefit to being big, and genetic changes will occur that gradually trigger a population rebound".

Dr. Conover and colleagues worked at the Flax Pond Marine Laboratory on the north shore of Long Island, with six wild populations of the Atlantic silverside (Menidia menidia) captured from Great South Bay, NY. This marine harvested species is common to the east coast of North America. Researchers selectively removed the largest fish over the course of five generations (for the silverside, each generation amounts to about one year). They then allowed five generations of recovery, in which no size-selective fishing occurred. Mean body size of the fish declined rapidly during the size-selective fishing period. During the recovery years, body size gradually rebounded.

In this experiment, Dr. Conover's team estimated that full recovery would take about 12 generations, but recovery time in the wild could be shorter or longer depending upon the species and its environment. If their estimate is roughly correct, however, it means that recovery could take many decades for commercially harvested fish species, since they typically have a generation time of three to seven years. Cod have a five-year generation time, for example, which equates to a 60-year recovery period. Evolutionary change may explain why several cod stocks have still not returned to historical body size and abundance even though the fishery was closed years ago, Dr. Conover said.

Kathryn Cervino | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.stonybrook.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht A Map of the Cell’s Power Station
18.08.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht On the way to developing a new active ingredient against chronic infections
18.08.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für Infektionsforschung

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A Map of the Cell’s Power Station

18.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Engineering team images tiny quasicrystals as they form

18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers printed graphene-like materials with inkjet

18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>