Evol Ecol Res 19: 171-194 (2018)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Phenotypic plasticity during external embryonic development is affected more by maternal effects than multiple abiotic factors in brook trout

Heather D. Penney, José Beirão* and Craig F. Purchase

Department of Biology, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada

Correspondence: H.D. Penney, Department of Biology, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, Newfoundland A1C 5S7, Canada. email: p52hdp@mun.ca


Purpose: Maternal (transgenerational) effects and phenotypic plasticity are important in early life history. However, most of the literature focuses on one or the other. We examined the contribution of maternal effects and context-dependent phenotypic plasticity on early life-history traits (hatch time and size) in developing brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) embryos.

Hypotheses: (1) Environmental effects have more of an impact on hatch time than maternal effects. (2) Maternal effects have more of an impact on hatchling size than environmental effects. (3) Egg size affects the degree of plasticity of hatch time and hatchling size.

Methods: In a split-brood common-garden experiment, brook trout embryos were individually incubated in four treatments consisting of two temperatures: stable (5°C) and fluctuating (range 2 to 8°C, mean 5°C), and two pH values: benign (6.5) and stressful (5.25).

Results: The environmental variables affected hatch time in that the fluctuating-temperature/benign-pH treatment combination had a significantly longer hatch range (decreased hatching synchrony) than the other treatment combinations. However, maternal effects (egg size) overshadowed environmental effects on hatch size. Larger eggs produced longer hatchlings. In addition, larger eggs were more plastic, suggesting maternal effects influenced the degree of plasticity.

Keywords: hatch size, hatch time, maternal effects, pH, Salvelinus fontinalis, temperature.

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