Transgenerational plasticity of reproduction depends on rate of warming across generations

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Evolutionary Applications, 2016, 9 (9), pp. 1072 - 1081
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© 2016 The Authors. Evolutionary Applications published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Predicting the impacts of climate change to biological systems requires an understanding of the ability for species to acclimate to the projected environmental change through phenotypic plasticity. Determining the effects of higher temperatures on individual performance is made more complex by the potential for environmental conditions experienced in previous and current generations to independently affect phenotypic responses to high temperatures. We used a model coral reef fish (Acanthochromis polyacanthus) to investigate the influence of thermal conditions experienced by two generations on reproductive output and the quality of offspring produced by adults. We found that more gradual warming over two generations, +1.5°C in the first generation and then +3.0°C in the second generation, resulted in greater plasticity of reproductive attributes, compared to fish that experienced the same increase in one generation. Reproduction ceased at the projected future summer temperature (31.5°C) when fish experienced +3.0°C for two generations. Additionally, we found that transgenerational plasticity to +1.5°C induced full restoration of thermally affected reproductive and offspring attributes, which was not possible with developmental plasticity alone. Our results suggest that transgenerational effects differ depending on the absolute thermal change and in which life stage the thermal change is experienced.
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