Development of thermal tolerance across demography in species with complex life cycles
I'm interested in how species with complex life cycles build up their environmental tolerances, ultimately allowing them to cope with climate change. Currently, I'm studying the processes that build tolerance in shellfish larvae and how this tolerance affects juvenile growth and survival, given recent findings that young life stages are most vulnerable to climate change yet are also the stages in which tolerance begins to develop.
What role do parental effects have on larval thermal tolerance in the California mussel?
Preparing the next generation for climate change: Are parental effects on larval thermal tolerance adaptive or maladaptive?
The ability of populations to cope with thermal stress may be influenced by conditions experienced by parents, via both genetic changes and transgenerational phenotypic plasticity through epigenetics or maternal provisioning. Adaptive parental effects occur if more stressful parental environments yield more tolerant offspring while the opposite pattern leads to maladaptive effects. This study evaluated the role of parental effects in determining larval thermal tolerances for the intertidal mussel, Mytilus californianus. We tested whether thermal environments across a natural gradient (shoreline elevation) impacted mussel temperature tolerances. Lethal thermal limits were compared for field-collected adults and their larvae. We observed parental effects across one generation, where adult mussels exposed to warmer habitats yielded less tolerant offspring. Interestingly, though parental environments influenced offspring tolerances, we found no clear effects of habitat conditions on adult phenotypes (tolerances). We found indicators of trade-offs in energy investment, with higher reproductive condition and larger egg sizes in low-stress environments. These results suggest parental effects are maladaptive leading to negative effects of thermal stress on the next generation.