Document Type



Evolution | Genomics


Ecological transitions across salinity boundaries have led to some of the most important diversification events in the animal kingdom, especially among fishes. Adaptations accompanying such transitions include changes in morphology, diet, whole-organism performance, and osmoregulatory function, which may be particularly prominent since divergent salinity regimes make opposing demands on systems that maintain ion and water balance. Research in the last decade has focused on the genetic targets underlying such adaptations, most notably by comparing populations of species that are distributed across salinity boundaries. Here, we synthesize research on the targets of natural selection using whole-genome approaches, with a particular emphasis on the osmoregulatory system. Given the complex, integrated and polygenic nature of this system, we expected that signatures of natural selection would span numerous genes across functional levels of osmoregulation, especially salinity sensing, hormonal control, and cellular ion exchange mechanisms. We find support for this prediction: genes coding for V-type, Ca2+, and Na+/K+-ATPases, which are key cellular ion exchange enzymes, are especially common targets of selection in species from six orders of fishes. This indicates that while polygenic selection contributes to adaptation across salinity boundaries, changes in ATPase enzymes may be of particular importance in supporting such transitions.