By James Pero For Dailymail.com
Published: 23:04 BST, 3 May 2019 | Updated: 23:06 BST, 3 May 2019
Adaptation is an integral part of any species survival, but rarely does that evolution involve becoming impervious to man-made pollution.
In a new report, researchers chronicle how the Gulf killifish developed an unlikely resistance to massive levels of pollution found in the natural habitat, the Houston Ship Channel.
'Most species don't survive radically altered environments,' corresponding author Andrew Whitehead, a UC Davis professor of environmental toxicology said.
'By studying the survivors, we get insight into what it takes to be successful. In the case of the killifish, it came down to huge population sizes and luck.'
By chance a fish in the Gulf Ocean has become genetically resistant to rampant pollution. File photo
The secret behind the killifish's survival, say researchers was the inheritance of genes from another species of the fish that lives almost 1,500 miles away in the Atlantic Ocean.
Humans likely transported the Atlantic killifish through the ballast of a large ship, say researchers.
Though the introduction of an invasive species often spells disaster for native animals, in this case the accident set forth an exchange of genes that would end up saving the Gulf killifish's life.
Atlantic killifish contained a gene segment that made their Gulf kin resistant to toxins that would have decimated the population.
The Gulf killifish (pictured) won the genetic lottery by inheriting traits from its Atlantic-based kin
'While the vast majority of research on invasive species rightly focuses on the environmental damage they can cause, this research shows that under rare circumstances they can also contribute valuable genetic variation to a closely related native species, thus acting as a mechanism of evolutionary rescue,' said co-corresponding author Cole