Can environmental conditions experienced in early life influence future generations?

Burton, T. and Metcalfe, N. B. (2014) Can environmental conditions experienced in early life influence future generations? Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B: Biological Sciences, 281(1785), p. 20140311. (doi:10.1098/rspb.2014.0311)

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Publisher's URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2014.0311

Abstract

The consequences of early developmental conditions for performance in later life are now subjected to convergent interest from many different biological sub-disciplines. However, striking data, largely from the biomedical literature, show that environmental effects experienced even before conception can be transmissible to subsequent generations. Here, we review the growing evidence from natural systems for these cross-generational effects of early life conditions, showing that they can be generated by diverse environmental stressors, affect offspring in many ways and can be transmitted directly or indirectly by both parental lines for several generations. In doing so, we emphasize why early life might be so sensitive to the transmission of environmentally induced effects across generations. We also summarize recent theoretical advancements within the field of developmental plasticity, and discuss how parents might assemble different ‘internal’ and ‘external’ cues, even from the earliest stages of life, to instruct their investment decisions in offspring. In doing so, we provide a preliminary framework within the context of adaptive plasticity for understanding inter-generational phenomena that arise from early life conditions.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Burton, Dr Tim and Metcalfe, Professor Neil
Authors: Burton, T., and Metcalfe, N. B.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
Journal Name:Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B: Biological Sciences
Publisher:The Royal Society
ISSN:0962-8452
ISSN (Online):1471-2954
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2014 The Authors
First Published:First published in Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B: Biological Sciences (281):1785:20140311
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
568811Does maternal life history strategy influence optimal management regimes for wild salmon?Neil MetcalfeNatural Environment Research Council (NERC)NE/I025182/1RI BIODIVERSITY ANIMAL HEALTH & COMPMED