Environmental variation mediates the evolution of anticipatory parental effects

Martin I Lind, Martyna K Zwoinska, Johan Andersson, Hanne Carlsson, Therese Krieg, Tuuli Larva, Alexei A Maklakov

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25 Citations (Scopus)
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Theory maintains that when future environment is predictable, parents should adjust the phenotype of their offspring to match the anticipated environment. The plausibility of positive anticipatory parental effects is hotly debated and the experimental evidence for the evolution of such effects is currently lacking. We experimentally investigated the evolution of anticipatory maternal effects in a range of environments that differ drastically in how predictable they are. Populations of the nematode Caenorhabditis remanei, adapted to 20°C, were exposed to a novel temperature (25°C) for 30 generations with either positive or zero correlation between parent and offspring environment. We found that populations evolving in novel environments that were predictable across generations evolved a positive anticipatory maternal effect, because they required maternal exposure to 25°C to achieve maximum reproduction in that temperature. In contrast, populations evolving under zero environmental correlation had lost this anticipatory maternal effect. Similar but weaker patterns were found if instead rate-sensitive population growth was used as a fitness measure. These findings demonstrate that anticipatory parental effects evolve in response to environmental change so that ill-fitting parental effects can be rapidly lost. Evolution of positive anticipatory parental effects can aid population viability in rapidly changing but predictable environments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-381
Number of pages11
JournalEvolution Letters
Issue number4
Early online date10 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020


  • Caenorhabditis
  • environmental heterogeneity
  • maternal effects
  • reproduction
  • temperature
  • transgenerational plasticity

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