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Title: Heat‐induced maternal effects shape avian eggshell traits and embryo development and phenotype at high incubation temperatures

Phenotypic plasticity is an important avenue by which organisms may persist in the face of rapid environmental change. Environmental cues experienced by the mother can also influence the phenotype of offspring, a form of plasticity called maternal effects. Maternal effects can adaptively prepare offspring for the environmental conditions they will likely experience; however, their ability to buffer offspring against environmental stressors as embryos is understudied. Using captive zebra finches, we performed a maternal‐offspring environmental match‐mismatch experiment utilizing a 2 × 2 × 2 factorial design. Mothers were exposed to a mild heat conditioning (38°C) or control (22°C) treatment as juveniles, an acute high heat (42°C) or control (22°C) treatment as adults, then paired for breeding. The eggs produced by those females were incubated at a hyperthermic (38.5°C) or optimal temperature (37.2°C). We found that when mothers were exposed to a mild heat conditioning as juveniles, their embryos exhibited reduced water loss, longer development times, and produced hatchlings with heavier pectoralis muscles when incubated at high incubation temperatures, compared to embryos from control mothers. Mothers exposed to both the mild heat conditioning as juveniles and a high heat stressor as adults produced eggs with a higher density of shell pores and embryos with lower heart rates during development. However, there was a cost when there was a mismatch between maternal and embryo environment. Embryos from these conditioned and heat‐stressed mothers had reduced survival at control incubation temperatures, indicating the importance of offspring environment when interpreting potential adaptive effects.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
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Publisher / Repository:
Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Ecology and Evolution
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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