Rapid shift in thermal resistance between generations through maternal heat exposure

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    Given the current rapid climate change, understanding the mechanisms underlying heat tolerance and its plasticity is an important goal of global change biology. Soil fauna communities are especially vulnerable because of their limited dispersal ability. It is generally recognized that transgenerational effects can contribute to the expression of phenotypic plasticity. Nevertheless, transgenerational plasticity in belowground organisms has received relatively little attention in the context of climate change, despite their major role in soil functioning. Here we test for transgenerational effects of heat shock exposure in the soil arthropod Orchesella cincta, a springtail species that regularly experiences heat stress conditions in its natural environment. We exposed females to heat stress, and subsequently investigated the effects of the same stress on the survival of their offspring. Thermal resistance of the progeny from treated and untreated mothers was compared at three life stages: egg, juvenile and adult. We provide evidence that exposure to heat shock induces a life stage-dependent increase in thermal resistance in the subsequent generation. The induced adaptive maternal effect persisted into the adult stage of the progeny. However, there is also a tradeoff resulting in reduced clutch size of treated females. These results are of broad significance to understanding the potential of organisms to cope with a changing climate.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1365-1370
    Issue number11
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


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