Differential tolerance to copper, but no evidence of population-level genetic differences in a widely-dispersing native barnacle
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- Gall, M.L., Holmes, S.P., Dafforn, K.A. et al. Ecotoxicology (2013) 22: 929. doi:10.1007/s10646-013-1063-z
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Despite many estuaries having high levels of metal pollution, species are found to persist in these stressful environments. Populations of estuarine invertebrates exposed to toxic concentrations of such metals may be under selection. However, in species with a wide-dispersal potential, any short-term results of localized selection may be counteracted by external recruitment from populations not under selection. The barnacle Amphibalanus variegatus is found in nearshore coastal environments as well as sheltered embayments and estuaries, including metal-impacted estuaries, from New South Wales, Australia to Western Australia. The fertilised eggs of A. variegatus are brooded internally and released as larvae (nauplii), which remain in the water-column for ~14 days before settling. Hence the species has a considerable dispersal capacity. The purpose of this study was to examine whether populations of A. variegatus from metal-impacted sites, displayed a greater tolerance to a toxicant (copper) than reference populations. Adult barnacles where collected from twenty sites within two metal-impacted and fourteen sites within two reference estuaries. Within 24 h, adults were induced to spawn and the offspring were exposed to copper in a laboratory assay. Larvae collected from the metal-impacted estuaries demonstrated a greater tolerance to copper compared to those from reference sites. To determine if selection/localised in the metal impacted sites was occurring, the genetic structure of populations at three sites was examined using an AFLP methodology. No evidence of unique population identity and or selection (outlier loci) was detected suggesting that: (1) the tolerance displayed in the assay was derived from acclimation during development; and/or (2) that the populations are open preventing the fixation of any unique alleles.