, Volume 26, Issue 4, pp 534–546 | Cite as

Evolutionary consequences of historical metal contamination for natural populations of Chironomus riparius (Diptera: Chironomidae)

  • João Pedrosa
  • Diana Campos
  • Berardino Cocchiararo
  • Carsten Nowak
  • Amadeu M. V. M. Soares
  • Carlos Barata
  • João L. T. PestanaEmail author


Populations inhabiting metal-impacted freshwater systems located nearby industrial and urban areas may be under intense selection. The present study aims to address two fundamental microevolutionary aspects of metal contamination in the midge Chironomus riparius (Meigen): Are populations inhabiting historically metal contaminated sites genetically adapted to metals? And, are populations from these sites genetically eroded? To answer these questions, C. riparius populations were sampled from three sites with well-known histories of metal contamination and three nearby-located references. Genetic adaptation to metals was investigated through acute and chronic exposures to cadmium (Cd), after rearing all populations for at least six generations under laboratory clean conditions. Genetic diversity was estimated based on the allelic variation of seven microsatellite markers. Results showed higher acute tolerance to Cd in populations originating from metal contaminated sites compared to their respective references and significant differences in two out of three pairwise comparisons. However, there was a mismatch between acute and chronic tolerance to Cd with results of the partial life-cycle tests suggesting fitness costs under control clean conditions in two metal-adapted populations. Despite no evidences of genetic erosion in populations sampled from metal contaminated sites, our results suggest genetically inherited tolerance to Cd in populations inhabiting historically contaminated sites. These findings lend support to the use of C. riparius as a model organism in evolutionary toxicology and highlight the importance of coupling measures of neutral genetic diversity with assessments of chemical tolerance of populations for a better understanding of contaminant-induced adaptation and evolutionary processes.


Cadmium Freshwater Metal adaptation Genetic diversity Invertebrates Metal contamination 



This work was supported by the Portuguese Science Foundation (FCT) through CESAM: UID/AMB/50017/2013. We are thankful for the financial support of COMPETE program (Programa Operacional Fatores de Competitividade, FEDER component) and National funding through FCT- Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia within the research project MIDGE - Microevolutionary Dynamics and Genetic Erosion in pollution-affected Chironomus (Ref: PTDC/BIA-BEC/104125/2008). We are also thankful to FCT and POPH/FSE (Programa Operacional Potencial Humano/Fundo Social Europeu) for the post-doctoral fellowship of J. L. T. Pestana (SFRH/BPD/103897/2014), and the doctoral grants of Diana Campos (SFRH/BD/87370/2012) and João A. M. Pedrosa PhD grant (SFRH/BD/75606/2010).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Supplementary material

10646_2017_1784_MOESM1_ESM.doc (596 kb)
Supplementary Information


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • João Pedrosa
    • 1
    • 2
  • Diana Campos
    • 1
  • Berardino Cocchiararo
    • 2
  • Carsten Nowak
    • 2
  • Amadeu M. V. M. Soares
    • 1
  • Carlos Barata
    • 3
  • João L. T. Pestana
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Departamento de Biologia & CESAMUniversidade de AveiroAveiroPortugal
  2. 2.Conservation Genetics GroupSenckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum of FrankfurtGelnhausenGermany
  3. 3.Department of Environmental Chemistry (IDAEA-CSIC)BarcelonaSpain

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