Transgenerational plasticity in the sea: context-dependent maternal effect across the life history

Marshall, D.J. (2008) Transgenerational plasticity in the sea: context-dependent maternal effect across the life history. Ecology, 89 2: 418-427. doi:10.1890/07-0449.1

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Author Marshall, D.J.
Title Transgenerational plasticity in the sea: context-dependent maternal effect across the life history
Journal name Ecology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0012-9658
Publication date 2008-02
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1890/07-0449.1
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Volume 89
Issue 2
Start page 418
End page 427
Total pages 10
Place of publication Washington, DC, United States
Publisher Ecological Society of America
Collection year 2009
Language eng
Abstract Maternal effects can have dramatic influences on the phenotype of offspring. Maternal effects can act as a conduit by which the maternal environment negatively affects offspring fitness, but they can also buffer offspring from environmental change by altering the phenotype of offspring according to local environmental conditions and as such, are a form of transgenerational plasticity. The benefits of maternal effects can be highly context dependent, increasing performance in one life-history stage but reducing it in another. While maternal effects are increasingly well understood in terrestrial systems, studies in the marine environment are typically restricted to a single, early life-history stage. Here, I examine the role of maternal effects across the life history of the bryozoan Bugula neritina. I exposed maternal colonies to a common pollution stress (copper) in the laboratory and then placed them in the field for one week to brood offspring. I then examined the resistance of offspring to copper from toxicant-exposed and toxicant-naïve mothers and found that offspring from toxicant-exposed mothers were larger, more dispersive, and more resistant to copper stress than offspring from naïve mothers. However, maternal exposure history had pervasive, negative effects on the post-metamorphic performance (particularly survival) of offspring: offspring from toxicant-exposed mothers had poorer performance after six weeks in the field, especially when facing high levels of intraspecific competition. Maternal experience can have complex effects on offspring phenotype, enhancing performance in one life-history stage while decreasing performance in another. The context-dependent costs and benefits associated with maternally derived pollution resistance may account for why such resistance is induced rather than continually expressed: mothers must balance the benefits of producing pollution-resistant larvae with the costs of producing poorer performing adults (in the absence of pollution).
Keyword Brisbane
Bugula neritina
egg size
offspring size
phenotypic plasticity
pollution resistance
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: 2009 Higher Education Research Data Collection
School of Biological Sciences Publications
Ecology Centre Publications
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 72 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
Scopus Citation Count Cited 69 times in Scopus Article | Citations
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Created: Thu, 12 Feb 2009, 17:54:37 EST by Gail Walter on behalf of School of Biological Sciences