Predation risk is a strong selective force shaping prey morphology, physiology, life history and/or behavior. As a prime stressor, predation risk may even induce trans-generational alterations, called maternal effects. Accordingly, maternal predation risk during offspring production may influence offspring life history and anti-predator behavior. Here, we assessed whether different levels of predation risk, posed by the predatory mite Phytoseiulus persimilis, induce graded maternal effects in its prey, the herbivorous two-spotted spider mite Tetranychus urticae. First, we generated four types of predation risk-stressed spider mite mothers by exposing them to living predators, direct and indirect predator cue combinations or no predator cues, respectively. Then, we investigated the life history (offspring developmental time, sex) and anti-predator response (activity, position on the leaf) of their offspring on leaves with and without direct and indirect predator cues. Maternal stress, no matter of the predation risk level, prolonged the offspring developmental time, as compared to offspring from unstressed mothers. This pattern was more pronounced on leaves with than without predator cues. Offspring from stressed mothers resided more likely on the leaf blade than close to the leaf vein. Offspring sex ratio and activity were not influenced by maternal predation risk but activity was higher on leaves with than without predator cues. We argue that the prolonged developmental time is non-adaptive, yet the changed site preference is adaptive because reducing the encounter likelihood with predators. Our study represents a key example for predation risk-mediated maternal effects on developmental trajectories of offspring.
Anti-predator behavior Life history Maternal effect Predation risk
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We thank I.C. Christiansen and M. Seiter for comments on a previous version of the manuscript.
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Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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