Quina, A.S., Durão, A.F., Muñoz-Muñoz, F., Ventura, J. & da Luz Mathias, M. (2019) Population effects of heavy metal pollution in wild Algerian mice (Mus spretus).Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, 171, 414-424. DOI:10.1016/j.ecoenv.2018.12.062 (IF2019 4,872; Q1 Environmental Sciences) NON-cE3c affiliated
Heavy metal mining is one of the largest sources of environmental pollution. The analysis of different types of biomarkers in sentinel species living in contaminated areas provides a measure of the degree of the ecological impact of pollution and is thus a valuable tool for human and environmental risk assessments. In previous studies we found that specimens from two populations of the Algerian mice (Mus spretus) living in two abandoned heavy metal mines (Aljustrel and Preguiça, Portugal) had higher body burdens of heavy metals, which led to alterations in enzymatic activities and in haematological, histological and genotoxic parameters, than mice from a nearby reference population. We have now analysed individuals from the same sites at the biometric and genetic levels to get a broader portrayal of the impact of heavy metal pollution on biodiversity, from molecules to populations. Size and shape variations of the mouse mandible were searched by implementing the geometric morphometric method. Population genetic differentiation and diversity parameters (φST estimates; nucleotide and haplotype diversities) were studied using the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene (Cytb) and the control region (CR). The morphometric analyses revealed that animals from the three sites differed significantly in the shape of the mandible, but mandibular shape varied in a more resembling way within individuals of both mine sites, which is highly suggestive for an effect of environmental quality on normal development pathways in Algerian mice. Also, antisymmetry in mandible size and shape was detected in all populations, making these traits not reliable indicators of developmental instability. Overall little genetic differentiation was found among the three populations, although pairwise φST comparisons revealed that the Aljustrel and the Preguiça populations were each differentiated from the other two populations in Cytb and in CR, respectively. Genetic diversity parameters revealed higher genetic diversity for Cytb in the population from Aljustrel, while in the population from Preguiça diversity of the two markers changed in opposite directions, higher genetic diversity in CR and lower in Cytb, compared to the reference population. Demographic changes and increased mutation rates may explain these findings. We show that developmental patterns and genetic composition of wild populations of a small mammal can be affected by chronic heavy metal exposure within a relatively short time. Anthropogenic stress may thus influence the evolutionary path of natural populations, with largely unpredictable ecological costs.