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Metabolic depression and the evolution of hypoxia tolerance in threespine stickleback, Gasterosteus aculeatus


What we did: We investigated whether hypoxia tolerance and its related mechanisms can evolve over relatively short time periods. We did this using two recently isolated (<11 000 y) populations of threespine stickleback, one from a lake that experiences deep long-term hypoxia and one from a lake that does not.

What we found: Stickleback from the hypoxic lake used an ability to depress their metabolism to achieve a twofold greater hypoxia-tolerance than stickleback from the non-hypoxic lake.

What this means: Hypoxia tolerance can significantly increase in stickleback over short geological time periods, suggesting this may be the case with other species too. This is particularly relevant as human practices continue to deplete the world’s aquatic environments of oxygen, threatening the species that live in them.