Life-stage specific environments in a cichlid fish: implications for inducible maternal effects
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Through environmentally induced maternal effects females may fine-tune their offspring’s phenotype to the conditions offspring will encounter after birth. If juvenile and adult ecologies differ, the conditions mothers experienced as juveniles may better predict their offspring’s environment than the adult females’ conditions. Maternal effects induced by the environment experienced by females during their early ontogeny should evolve when three ecological conditions are met: (1) Adult ecology does not predict the postnatal environmental conditions of offspring; (2) Environmental conditions for juveniles are correlated across successive generations; and (3) Juveniles occasionally settle in conditions that differ from the juvenile habitat of their mothers. By combining size-structured population counts, ecological surveys and a genetic analysis of population structure we provide evidence that all three conditions hold for Simochromis pleurospilus, a cichlid fish in which mothers adjust offspring quality to their own juvenile ecology. In particular we show (1) that the spatial niches and the habitat quality differ between juveniles and adults, and we provide genetic evidence (2) that usually fish of successive generations grow up in similar habitats, and (3) that occasional dispersal in populations with a different habitat quality is likely to occur. As adults of many species cannot predict their offspring’s environment from ambient cues, life-stage specific maternal effects are likely to be common in animals. It will therefore be necessary to incorporate parental ontogeny in the study of parental effects when juveniles and adults inhabit different environments.
KeywordsMaternal effect Life-stage specific Juvenile and adult environment Cichlid fish
We thank Martin Jiskra for help with the collection of field data, and Michael Taborsky, Catherine Wagner, Alex Hayward and two anonymous referees for comments on the manuscript, Dik Heg and Göran Arnqvist for help with statistics, Roger Schürch, Fardo Witsenburg, Oliver Otti and the Fisheries Department Mpulungu of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Zambia for logistic and scientific support in Zambia, and Evi Zwygart and Janne Schöning for logistic support in Europe. This study was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (grant 3100A0-111796 to B.T) and the Austrian Science Fund (FWF; grant P18647-B16 to B.T.).
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