How does parental environment influence the potential for adaptation to global change?

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Parental environments are regularly shown to alter the mean fitness of offspring, but their impacts on the genetic variation for fitness, which predicts adaptive capacity and is also measured on offspring, are unclear. Consequently, how parental environments mediate adaptation to environmental stressors, like those accompanying global change, is largely unknown. Here, using an ecologically important marine tubeworm in a quantitativegenetic breeding design, we tested how parental exposure to projected ocean warming alters the mean survival, and genetic variation for survival, of offspring during their most vulnerable life stage under current and projected temperatures. Offspring survival was higher when parent and offspring temperatures matched. Across offspring temperatures, parental exposure to warming altered the distribution of additive genetic variance for survival, making it covary across current and projected temperatures in away thatmay aid adaptation to futurewarming. Parental exposure towarming also amplified nonadditive genetic variance for survival, suggesting that compatibilities between parental genomes may grow increasingly important under future warming. Our study shows that parental environments potentially have broader-ranging effects on adaptive capacity than currently appreciated, not only mitigating the negative impacts of global change but also reshaping the raw fuel for evolutionary responses to it.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20181374
Number of pages10
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1886
Publication statusPublished - 12 Sep 2018


  • Climate change
  • Genetic variance
  • Marine invertebrates
  • Parental effects
  • Transgenerational plasticity

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