Fish Designed to Tolerate Poison | The Institute for Creation Research
Fish Designed to Tolerate Poison

Biologists recently discovered how tomcod—a smaller variation of cod—have thrived in the polluted waters of the Hudson River. The reports on their research are soaked in evolutionary jargon, but the data they dredged from the DNA of these and neighboring tomcod demonstrate that evolution had nothing to do with the fish's unexpected proliferation in poisoned waters. Instead, it appears that tomcod were designed to tolerate toxins.

The tomcod that populate the long-polluted Hudson River carry in their bodies one of the highest levels of industrial waste toxins called polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) of any animal. Marine researchers found that these fish have a particular version of a gene that enables them to survive, and that this version was a part of the tomcod gene pool before PCBs were added to the Hudson waters.

This particular gene codes for a protein that intercepts PCBs, which join to and activate the proteins for transportation into the cell's nucleus. When there, the activated proteins signal other genes in the nucleus to be processed. The Hudson River tomcod's version of this protein is several times less sensitive to joining PCBs. Even when activated by PCB, the protein in these tomcod is transported to the nucleus more slowly and in fewer numbers compared to tomcod living in nearby cleaner waterways.

Publishing in Science Express, the authors of the paper found that a contingent of fishes within several nearby populations have the resistant version of the gene, while most in those populations do not. They wrote, "The presence of AHR2-1 [the resistant gene] at low frequencies in tomcod from these two cleaner nearby estuaries within 150 km of the mouth of the [Hudson River] suggests that AHR2-1 was present as a standing variant at low frequency in the [Hudson River] prior to anthropogenic disturbances [human pollution]."1

Apparently, those individual tomcod who already had the resistant version of this gene moved into the poisonous Hudson River because they were already equipped to do so. Once there, only baby fish with the resistant version could continue to survive. Does this exemplify in any way an evolutionary origin of the PCB-interacting gene, the origin of different versions of the gene, or the origin of the tomcod itself?

Neither the gene and its variants nor the fish were seen to arise as a result of the environment or any other natural system. Instead, they were all already present, likely before the Hudson River was poisoned by 30 years of industrial waste.

Nevertheless, evolutionary rhetoric was tacked on to the reports of the PCB-resistant tomcod. For example, a Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution press release title stated that the resistant gene was "triggered" by pollution.2 The technical report asserted that this "rapid evolutionary change" resulted from "selective pressures."1

But in this study, the hypothesis that pollution was a passive environment that did not trigger or perform any other action was not investigated. The fish were already equipped to tolerate the changed environment, as though they had been designed to survive in a wide range of water chemistries.

Both the press release and the technical article credited the tomcod's toxin resistance to "rapid evolution." But no new information entered the tomcod's genome, so any variation was irrelevant to big-picture evolution, which purports to explain the origin of all biological information.

Also, the change that did occur was merely in the redistribution of fish with or without the resistant gene in certain waters. No wonder the change was so "rapid." These fish produce copious eggs every year, and new generations can show quick shifts in already existing variations. But these variations have their limits, as has been discovered by overfishing Atlantic cod.3

Extra explanations are typically needed to make an interpretation "fit" contradictory evidence. The high volume of evolutionary verbiage used with this tomcod study may therefore have been required to mask the fact that these tomcod appear to have been created with the built-in ability to survive in spite of PCBs.

References

  1. Wirgin, I. et al. Mechanistic Basis of Resistance to PCBs in Atlantic Tomcod from the Hudson River. Science Express. Posted on sciencemag.org February 17, 2011, accessed February 22, 2011.
  2. Pollution Triggers Genetic Resistance Mechanism in a Coastal Fish. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution press release, February 17, 2011.
  3. Thomas, B. Huxley Error Led to Cod Calamity. Acts & Facts. 38 (8): 17.

* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.

Article posted on March 3, 2011.

The Latest
NEWS
Unlocking the Mysteries of Genesis Conference Coming to Lincoln,...
Are you looking for real answers to the tough questions of faith and science? Come to the Unlocking the Mysteries of Genesis Conference on June 26 at Lincoln...

NEWS
Inside June 2021 Acts & Facts
How do the Everglades illustrate Bible-affirming biology? Why do marine sponges inspire engineers? What can we learn about God’s providence from...

NEWS
Two Excuses for Human Evolution Confusion
Public school textbooks assert that apes and humans emerged from an ape-like animal, whereas Genesis 1 says that God created humans and the different animal...

DAYS OF PRAISE DEVOTIONALS
Summer 2021
...

ACTS & FACTS
Creation Kids: Coral Reef
Christy Hardy and Susan Windsor* You’re never too young to be a creation scientist! Kids, discover fun facts about God’s creation with...

ACTS & FACTS
The Legacy and Faith of a Godly Father
Good fathers serve an essential role in the family, and it’s surely fitting that we express our love and gratitude on Father’s Day. After...

APOLOGETICS
Even Seaweed Is Proof of God's Providence
Tidewater-tossed seaweeds display God’s providence.1,2 Hidden in plain view, tidewater seaweeds are spectacular exhibits of Christ’s...

ACTS & FACTS
What It Takes to Make a Cell: A Review of The Stairway to Life
Rare is the science book that can hold even an average reader’s attention. But The Stairway to Life does just that. Coauthored by biochemist Laura...

ACTS & FACTS
Does Radioisotope Dating Prove an Old Earth?
Tim Clarey, Ph.D., and Vernon R. Cupps, Ph.D.* When most people think about radioisotope dating, they think of carbon-14 (C-14), or radiocarbon...

ACTS & FACTS
The Everglades: Two Biology Basics the Bible Got Right
Brian Thomas, Ph.D., and Gary Parker, Ed.D.* Imagine a river 50 miles wide and 100 miles long but only inches deep. Its slow flow is hidden...