Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Rapid genetic adaptation to a novel environment despite a genome-wide reduction in genetic diversity.

Abstract

Introduced species often colonize regions that have vastly different ecological and environmental conditions than those found in their native range. As such, species introductions can provide a deeper understanding into the process of adaptive evolution. In the 1880s, steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) from California were introduced into Lake Michigan (Laurentian Great Lakes, North America) where they established naturally reproducing populations. In their native range, steelhead hatch in rivers, migrate to the ocean and return to freshwater to spawn. Steelhead in Lake Michigan continue to swim up rivers to spawn, but now treat the freshwater environment of the Great Lakes as a surrogate ocean. To examine the effects of this introduction, we sequenced the genomes of 264 fish. By comparing steelhead from Lake Michigan to steelhead from their ancestral range, we determined that the introduction led to consistent reductions in genetic diversity across all 29 chromosomes. Despite this reduction in genetic diversity, three chromosomal regions were associated with rapid genetic adaptation to the novel environment. The first region contained functional changes to ceramide kinase, which likely altered metabolic and wound-healing rates in Lake Michigan steelhead. The second and third regions encoded carbonic anhydrases and a solute carrier protein, both of which are critical for osmoregulation, and demonstrate how steelhead physiologically adapted to freshwater. Furthermore, the contemporary release of diverse hatchery strains into the lake increased genetic diversity but reduced the signature of genetic adaptation. This study illustrates that species can rapidly adapt to novel environments despite genome-wide reductions in genetic diversity.