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Human Activity Changes Fish Genitalia

Update Date: Nov 06, 2014 03:42 PM EST

A new study has shown human activity affecting male genitalia of specific fish species.

The North Carolina State University research involved study of Mosquito Fish living in fragmented creeks made by connecting roads in Bahamian Islands. Compared to fish living in unfragmented waters, fish living in fragmented waters had smaller gonopodium, the sperm transmitting organ.

"This study shows that human-induced habitat alteration results in changes in fish genitalia in just 35 to 50 years - the time elapsed since the fragment-causing roads were built. While we expected to see some changes, we were surprised to see the consistency with which each species changed in accordance with our predictions based on earlier work that focused on how ecological factors, such as predation, affected the evolution of male genitalia over the course of thousands of years," NC State Ph.D. student Justa Heinen-Kay said in a press release.

Kay and others researchers pointed out that unfragmented water fish which live with predators have bony and elongated gonopodium. The research has also given rise to questions over extent of human activity affecting species, including bringing about speciation.

"Because genitalia have an obvious and direct influence on reproduction, these findings beg the question of whether human-induced environmental change might facilitate speciation. As populations become more and more different in their genital morphology, their ability to interbreed can decline, leading to speciation," said R. Brian Langerhans, assistant professor of biological sciences at the university.

.The findings have been published in the journal Evolutionary Applications

"How common this sort of rapid change in genital shape might be in other species, and its consequences for the formation of new species, are some of the questions we'll ask in future studies," he added.

Researchers have called for further research to evaluate consequences of the study on reproduction of species affected by human activity. 

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