Goodman J, Copplestone D, Laptev GV, Gashchak S & Auld SKJR (2019) Variation in chronic radiation exposure does not drive life history divergence among Daphnia populations across the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Ecology and Evolution, 9 (5), pp. 2640-2650. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.4931
Ionizing radiation is a mutagen with known negative impacts on individual fitness. However, much less is known about how these individual fitness effects translate into population‐level variation in natural environments that have experienced varying levels of radiation exposure. In this study, we sampled genotypes of the freshwater crustacean, Daphnia pulex, from the eight inhabited lakes across the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (CEZ). Each lake has experienced very different levels of chronic radiation exposure since a nuclear power reactor exploded there over thirty years ago. The sampled Daphnia genotypes represent genetic snapshots of current populations and allowed us to examine fitness‐related traits under controlled laboratory conditions at UK background dose rates. We found that whilst there was variation in survival and schedules of reproduction among populations, there was no compelling evidence that this was driven by variation in exposure to radiation. Previous studies have shown that controlled exposure to radiation at dose rates included in the range measured in the current study reduce survival, or fecundity, or both. One limitation of this study is the lack of available sites at high dose rates, and future work could test life history variation in various organisms at other high radiation areas. Our results are nevertheless consistent with the idea that other ecological factors, for example competition, predation or parasitism, are likely to play a much bigger role in driving variation among populations than exposure to the high radiation dose rates found in the CEZ. These findings clearly demonstrate that it is important to examine the potential negative effects of radiation across wild populations that are subject to many and varied selection pressures as a result of complex ecological interactions.
Daphnia pulex; life history; mutation; radiation
Ecology and Evolution: Volume 9, Issue 5