A decade after DNA sequencing technologies are unleashed for studying genomes of natural populations, new knowledge emerges on how environmental conditions influence genome structures and gene functions and, in turn, how individuals and populations cope with changing environments – including the exposure to pollutants. Ecological and evolutionary genomics is a rapidly growing interdisciplinary field of research that begins to address the complexity of genome-environment interactions that has otherwise eluded other (biomedical related) disciplines. These insights emerge from the study of genomic model species that have well known ecologies, and from their populations that are adapted to local environments. Recent findings using the model species Daphnia point to the importance of gene copy number variation for the adaptive potential of populations to tolerate stressful environmental conditions, including toxic levels of heavy metal from industrial activities. Such findings have the potential to also signal environmental health concerns.
This work benefits from, and contributes to the Daphnia Genomics Consortium.