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Between-Generation Adjustments to Heat Stress in a Soil Arthropod

Paper Reviewed
Zizzari, Z.V. and Ellers, J. 2014. Rapid shift in thermal resistance between generations through maternal heat exposure. Oikos 123: 1365-1370.

Introducing their work, Zizzari and Ellers (2014) write that "a frequently observed response to climate change is phenotypic plasticity, which allows organisms to modify their phenotype in response to changes in environmental temperature, leading to behavioral and physiological adjustments," citing Hoffmann et al. (2003), Charmantier et al. (2008) and Nicotra et al. (2010),"while further indicating that "this form of plasticity enables the transmission of environmentally-induced phenotypic changes to the next generation," citing Fox et al. (2001) and Bonduriansky et al. (2012). And so they went on to see for themselves, testing for trans-generational effects of heat shock exposure in the soil arthropod Orchesella cincta.

In their particular study, the two Dutch researchers exposed females of O. cincta to heat stress and "subsequently investigated the effects of the same stress on their offspring," which they did by comparing the thermal resistance of the progeny from treated and untreated mothers at three different life stages: egg, juvenile and adult. And this work revealed, as they describe it, that "the induced adaptive maternal effect persisted into the adult stage of the progeny."

Noting that such trans-generational effects "are known to form an effective evolutionary tool to cope with fluctuating temperatures" - as per the studies of Crill et al. (1996), Galloway and Etterson (2007) and Burgess and Marshall (2011) - Zizzari and Ellers conclude their paper by stating that their study "contributes to this body of work by showing that between-generation effects can rapidly cause a major adjustment of thermal stress resistance in a soil arthropod." And that suggests animals may not be as susceptible to the dreaded impacts of CO2-induced temperature increases that the IPCC predicts will harm them in the future.

Bonduriansky, R., Crean, A.J. and Day, T. 2012. The implications of non-genetic inheritance for evolution in changing environments. Evolutionary Applications 5: 192-201.

Burgess, S.C. and Marshall, D.J. 2011. Temperature-induced maternal effects and environmental predictability. Journal of Experimental Biology 214: 2329-2336.

Charmantier, A., McCleery, R.H., Cole, L.R., Perrins, C., Kruuk, L.E.B. and Sheldon, B.C. 2008. Adaptive phenotypic plasticity in response to climate change in a wild bird population. Science 320: 800-803.

Crill, W.D., Huey, R.B. and Gilchrist, G.W. 1996. Within- and between-generation effects of temperature on the morphology and physiology of Drosophila melanogaster. Evolution 50: 1205-1218.

Fox, C.W., Roff, D.A. and Fairbairn, D.I. (Eds.). 2001. Evolutionary Ecology: Concepts and Case Studies. Oxford University Press, New York, New York, USA.

Galloway, L.F. and Etterson, J.R. 2007. Transgenerational plasticity is adaptive in the wild. Science 318: 1134-1136.

Hoffmann, A.A., Sorensen, J.G. and Loeschcke, V. 2003. Adaptation of Drosophila to temperature extremes: bringing together quantitative and molecular approaches. Journal of Thermal Biology 28: 175-216.

Nicotra, A.B., Atkin, O.K., Bonser, S.P., Davidson, A.M., Finnegan, E.J., Mathesius, U., Poot, P., Purugganan, M.D., Richards, C.L., Valladares, F. and van Kleunen, M. 2010. Plant phenotypic plasticity in a changing climate. Trends in Plant Science 15: 684-692.

Posted 4 March 2015