Rapid adaptation of microalgae to bodies of water with extreme pollution from uranium mining: An explanation of how mesophilic organisms can rapidly colonise extremely toxic environments

C. García-Balboa, B. Baselga-Cervera, A. García-Sanchez, J. M. Igual, V. Lopez-Rodas, E. Costas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations

Abstract

Extreme environments may support communities of microalgae living at the limits of their tolerance. It is usually assumed that these extreme environments are inhabited by extremophile species. However, global anthropogenic environmental changes are generating new extreme environments, such as mining-effluent pools of residual waters from uranium mining with high U levels, acidity and radioactivity in Salamanca (Spain). Certain microalgal species have rapidly adapted to these extreme waters (uranium mining in this area began in 1960). Experiments have demonstrated that physiological acclimatisation would be unable to achieve adaptation. In contrast, rapid genetic adaptation was observed in waters ostensibly lethal to microalgae by means of rare spontaneous mutations that occurred prior to the exposure to effluent waters from uranium mining. However, adaptation to the most extreme conditions was only possible after recombination through sexual mating because adaptation requires more than one mutation. Microalgae living in extreme environments could be the descendants of pre-selective mutants that confer significant adaptive value to extreme contamination. These "lucky mutants" could allow for the evolutionary rescue of populations faced with rapid environmental change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)116-123
Number of pages8
JournalAquatic Toxicology
Volume144-145
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 15 2013
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
To Lara de Miguel for her excellent technical support. To Pedro Caravantes for his help in samples preparation and analyses. To Teresa Benito Criado from Assistant Technical Center Geological Research (Universidad Complutense de Madrid). Supported by Spanish Secretaría de Estado de Investigación, Desarrollo e Innovación grant CTM 2012-34757 .

Keywords

  • Adaptation
  • Extreme environment
  • Microalgae
  • Mutation
  • Recombination
  • Uranium mining

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