Evolution in a toxic world

How life responds to chemical threats

Evolution, anthropogenic contamination and endocrine disrupting chemicals

In September of 2011, David Crews and Andrea Gore published “Life Imprints: living in a contaminated world” (Environmental Health Perspectives 199: 1208-1210.) In it they discuss the potential impacts of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) on reproductive and developmental processes, and the potential (or lack of) for species to become resistant or to adapt to EDCs. I have pasted the abstract below:

Background: The links between nature and nurture need to be redefined to accommodate anthropogenic chemical contamination. Although some local remediation of contamination has occurred, at the global level this is simply not possible. Contaminants are spread by population migration, by introduction via the food chain, and through air and water currents, even to regions that were never exposed directly to these environmental insults. In recognizing and accepting this worldwide change, we must move on and consider the types of adaptations that could occur as a consequence.

Objectives: We propose a paradigm shift in the field that integrates various disciplines involved in the study of environmental contamination to recognize that contamination is widespread and cannot be remedied at the global level.

Discussion: Greater effort must be placed on integrative and interdisciplinary studies that explicitly illuminate how the causal mechanisms and functional outcomes of related processes operate at each level of biological organization while at the same time revealing the relations among the levels.

Conclusions: To anticipate and understand the future, we must devote more study to what is likely to happen and less to what has happened. Only then will we begin to understand how ancestral environmental exposures act at both the level of the individual and the level of their descendants to influence all aspects of life history.


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