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Melanism protects alpine zooplankton from DNA damage caused by ultraviolet radiation

Cite this dataset

Ulbing, Cynthia K. S.; Muuse, Julia M.; Miner, Brooks E. (2019). Melanism protects alpine zooplankton from DNA damage caused by ultraviolet radiation [Dataset]. Dryad.


Melanism is widely observed among animals, and is adaptive in various contexts for its thermoregulatory, camouflaging, mate-attraction, or photoprotective properties. Many organisms exposed to ultraviolet radiation show increased fitness resulting from melanin pigmentation; this has been assumed to result in part from reduced UV-induced damage to DNA. However, to effectively test the hypothesis that melanin pigmentation reduces UV-induced DNA damage requires quantification of UV-specific DNA damage lesions following UV exposure under controlled conditions using individuals that vary in pigmentation intensity. We accomplished this using alpine genotypes of the freshwater microcrustacean Daphnia melanica for which we quantified cyclobutane pyrimide dimers in DNA, a damage structure that can only be generated by UV exposure. For genotypes with carapace melanin pigmentation, we found that individuals with greater melanin content sustained lower levels of UV-induced DNA damage. Individuals with more melanin were also more likely to survive exposure to ecologically relevant levels of UV-B radiation. Parallel experiments with conspecific genotypes that lack carapace melanin pigmentation provide additional support for our conclusion that melanism protects individuals from UV-induced DNA damage. Finally, within-genotype comparisons with asexually-produced clonal siblings demonstrate that melanin content influences DNA damage even among genetically identical individuals raised in the same environment.