While many fish are declining in population due to overfishing and changing temperatures, there are a handful of strange fish adapting to human pollution. These changes and adaptations may seem miraculous, but they also serve as a warning for the future of ocean life and how we are treating the world’s ecosystem. Here is a look at three strange fish that have adapted to human-polluted environments.
New Bedford Killifish
General Electric dumping toxins into the Hudson River became national news in part due to one very small fish, the killifish. Originally tested with lethal amounts of mercury, scientists were astonished to discover that the killifish were not only surviving, but thriving. They have been tested with a number of both banned and legal chemicals known to cause severe deformities, but the organs of the killifish were able to filter the toxins while its natural predators slowly began to die off.
A similar case to that of the killifish is the tomcod, found slightly farther down the Hudson River near the mouth of the Hudson Bay. The tomcod’s story with pollution goes back to 1976 when huge populations of fish were dying off due to mercury and other chemicals. What is so astonishing about this strange fish is the fact that it has been able to pass the toxin-resistant genes onto its spawn. Currently, it is estimated that upwards of 90 percent of all living tomcods now carry the gene to remain resistant to these toxins.
Gulf of Mexico Shrimp
Although not technically a fish, a more recent example of adaptation concerns the historical tragedy of the BP oil spill. Dozens of marine species were affected by billions of gallons of oil dumped into the ocean and the effect on marine biology is astounding. This is especially true of deep sea shrimp that were one of the species to survive in these waters even as a high percentage of the population went blind. Small sores are now found on the body of huge schools of shrimp making them nearly inedible to both humans and other predators. While the adaptation was inadvertent and devastating, it has allowed the blinded shrimp to survive the ecological disaster and its aftermath.