Extremophile Fishes

pp 137-159


Hydrogen Sulfide-Toxic Habitats

  • Rüdiger RieschAffiliated withSchool of Biological Sciences, Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Behaviour, Royal Holloway University of London Email author 
  • , Michael ToblerAffiliated withDivision of Biology, Kansas State University
  • , Martin PlathAffiliated withCollege of Animal Science and Technology, Northwest A&F University

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Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is a potent respiratory toxicant that is lethal to most metazoans (including fishes) in micromolar concentrations, as demonstrated by mass kills following environmental spills. Nevertheless, a number of teleosts have adapted to, and thrive in, habitats with high ambient H2S concentrations as found, for example, at marine hydrothermal vents (“black smokers”), cold seeps, or in freshwater sulfide springs. Livebearing fishes (Poeciliidae) dominate amongst freshwater fishes inhabiting sulfide spring in the New World and are the most studied group of freshwater sulfide-dwellers. In this chapter, we identify targets of directional selection in sulfidic habitats and demonstrate how these affect different levels of biological organization (e.g., cellular functioning and molecular evolution, morphology and organ evolution, whole body performance and eco-physiological traits, life histories). We highlight multifarious selective regimes arising from correlated abiotic stressors (like hypoxia) and altered ecological parameters (like truncated ecological communities and altered predatory regimes). Finally, we discuss the evidence for replicated ecological speciation as a result of independent evolutionary transitions in different lineages of poeciliids into sulfide waters, and we summarize studies examining the question of how local adaptation translates into the emergence of reproductive isolation due to selection against non-adapted individuals migrating between habitat types.