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.more » « less
- NSF-PAR ID:
- 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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Kelp forests of the California Current System have experienced prolonged marine heatwave (MHW) events that overlap in time with the phenology of life history events (e.g., gametogenesis and spawning) of many benthic marine invertebrates. To study the effect of thermal stress from MHWs during gametogenesis in the purple sea urchin ( Strongylocentrotus purpuratus ) and further, whether MHWs might induce transgenerational plasticity (TGP) in thermal tolerance of progeny, adult urchins were acclimated to two conditions in the laboratory – a MHW temperature of 18°C and a non-MHW temperature of 13°C. Following a four-month long acclimation period (October–January), adults were spawned and offspring from each parental condition were reared at MHW (18°C) and non-MHW temperatures (13°C), creating a total of four embryo treatment groups. To assess transgenerational effects for each of the four groups, we measured thermal tolerance of hatched blastula embryos in acute thermal tolerance trials. Embryos from MHW-acclimated females were more thermally tolerant with higher LT 50 values as compared to progeny from non-MHW-acclimated females. Additionally, there was an effect of female acclimation state on offspring body size at two stages of embryonic development - early gastrulae and prism, an early stage echinopluteus larvae. To assess maternal provisioning as means to also alter embryo performance, we assessed gamete traits from the differentially acclimated females, by measuring size and biochemical composition of eggs. MHW-acclimated females had eggs with higher protein concentrations, while egg size and lipid content showed no differences. Our results indicate that TGP plays a role in altering the performance of progeny as a function of the thermal history of the female, especially when thermal stress coincides with gametogenesis. In addition, the data on egg provisioning show that maternal experience can influence embryo traits via egg protein content. Although this is a laboratory-based study, the results suggest that TGP may play a role in the resistance and tolerance of S. purpuratus early stages in the natural kelp forest setting.more » « less
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Taeniopygia guttata) to a repeated mild heat stressor (38°C) as juveniles for 28 days. As adults, the birds were then exposed to a high heat stressor (42°C) for 3 consecutive days and we examined the effects on immune function via wound healing, and on female reproductive output. We found that females given the mild heat stressor as juveniles healed wounds marginally slower, but also had higher clutch viability than controls. For the adult treatment, we saw that high heat had a stimulatory effect on clutch viability as well. Our findings point toward the occurrence of trade‐offs between immune function and reproduction due to a cost of hormetic priming when the adult environment does not match that of early life.
Most organisms experience thermal variability in their environment; however, our understanding of how organisms cope with this variation is under-developed. For example, in organisms with temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD), an inability to predict sex ratios under fluctuating incubation temperatures in the field hinders predictions of how species with TSD will fare in a changing climate. To better understand how sex determination is affected by thermal variation, we incubated Trachemys scripta eggs using a “heat wave” design, where embryos experienced a male-producing temperature of 25 ± 3°C for the majority of development and varying durations at a female-producing temperature of 29.5 ± 3°C during the window of development when sex is determined. We compared the sex ratios from these incubation conditions with a previous data set that utilized a similar heat wave design, but instead incubated eggs at a male-producing temperature of 27 ± 3°C but utilized the same female-producing temperature of 29.5 ± 3°C. We compared the sex ratio reaction norms produced from these two incubation conditions and found that, despite differences in average temperatures, both conditions produced 50:50 sex ratios after ∼8 days of exposure to female-producing conditions. This emphasizes that sex can be determined in just a few days at female-producing conditions and that sex determination is relatively unaffected by temperatures outside of this short window. Further, these data demonstrate the reduced accuracy of the constant temperature equivalent model (the leading method of predicting sex ratios) under thermally variable temperatures. Conceptualizing sex determination as the number of days spent incubating at female-producing conditions rather than an aggregate statistic is supported by the mechanistic underpinnings of TSD, helps to improve sex ratio estimation methods, and has important consequences for predicting how species with TSD will fare in a changing climate.
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Abstract A major driver of wildlife responses to climate change will include non-genomic effects, like those mediated through parental behavior and physiology (i.e., parental effects). Parental effects can influence lifetime reproductive success and survival, and thus population-level processes. However, the extent to which parental effects will contribute to population persistence or declines in response to climate change is not well understood. These effects may be substantial for species that exhibit extensive parental care behaviors, like birds. Environmental temperature is important in shaping avian incubation behavior, and these factors interact to determine the thermal conditions embryos are exposed to during development, and subsequently avian phenotypes and secondary sex ratios. In this article, we argue that incubation behavior may be an important mediator of avian responses to climate change, we compare incubation strategies of two species adapted to different thermal environments nesting in extreme heat, and we present a simple model that estimates changes in egg temperature based on these incubation patterns and predicted increases in maximum daily air temperature. We demonstrate that the predicted increase in air temperature by 2100 in the central USA will increase temperatures that eggs experience during afternoon off-bouts and the proportion of nests exposed to lethal temperatures. To better understand how species and local adaptations and behavioral-plasticity of incubation behavior will contribute to population responses to climate change comparisons are needed across more avian populations, species, and thermal landscapes.more » « less