Evolution by Pesticides, Yeraldi Loera, G1 (3958324)
In an increasingly polluted world, contaminants have become a significant threat to biological homeostasis and may be eliciting rapid evolutionary responses in exposed wildlife populations. In 1980, Lake Apopka, Florida, experienced a chemical spill releasing thousands of gallons of pesticide mixtures resulting in its classification as a superfund site. Many of these pesticides like the infamous DDT function as endocrine-disrupting chemicals, which affect steroid hormone levels and signaling. The exposed native population of American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) at Lake Apopka has consequently displayed widespread aberrant sexual development, a sharp decline in egg viability, and a drastic decrease in population density following exposure. Surprisingly, the population rebounded a decade later despite the chronic multigenerational persistence of these pesticides in the environment. Despite extensive physiological studies describing the acute and long-standing effects of exposure, the potential role of natural selection in aiding population recovery at this site remains unknown. I aim to examine this possible case of evolution in the wild. I plan on looking for signatures of selection across the biological hierarchy of organization using physiological, transcriptomic, and genomic techniques.