Evidence of rapid evolutionary responses in a virus affected commercial fishery

Infectious diseases are recognized as one of the greatest global threats to biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. In recent decades, infectious diseases have devastated a range of wildlife groups, often exacerbating species declines in ecosystems already stressed by climate change and habitat destruction. The persistence of many species will probably depend on their ability to adapt to environmental changes associated with increased disease prevalence, although selection for disease resistance or tolerance may not keep pace with rates of pathogen evolution and the emergence and turnover of novel diseases. In a new study published in Molecular Ecology the EcoGenetics team and collaborators provided evidence of rapid genomic changes in wild Australian blacklip abalone (Haliotis rubra) following a major population crash associated with an infectious disease. Genome scans on H. rubrawere performed using pooled whole genome resequencing data from commercial fishing stocks varying in historical exposure to haliotid herpesvirus-1 (HaHV-1). Analyses detected genetic changes in fishing stocks impacted by virus exposure, which mapped to genes that contribute to HaHV-1 immunity in a sister abalone species from New Zealand. These exciting findings indicate genetic changes across a single generation in H. rubra fishing stocks decimated by HaHV-1, with stock recovery potentially determined by rapid evolutionary changes leading to virus resistance. This is a novel example of apparently rapid adaptation in natural populations of a nonmodel marine organism, highlighting the pace at which selection can potentially act to counter disease in wildlife communities.

Paper can be found here: