New SBU Study Finds Fish Offspring Grow Best at Same Temperature as Parents

Research

New SBU Study Finds Fish Offspring Grow Best at Same Temperature as Parents
Publication appearing in the journal Ecology Letters

STONY BROOK, NY, January 10, 2011 – Fish parents can pre-condition their offspring to grow fastest at the temperature they experienced, according to research published in the February 2012 edition of 
Ecology Letters
. This pre-conditioning, known as transgenerational plasticity (TGP), occurs whenever environmental cues experienced by either parent prior to fertilization changes how their offspring respond to the environment.

Dr. Stephan B. Munch

Dr. Stephan B. Munch, an Adjunct Associate Professor at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS) at Stony Brook University and a member of the Early Life History Team at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), along with Santiago Salinas, a Ph.D. candidate from Stony Brook University, found what they believe to be the first evidence for thermal TGP in a vertebrate. Munch and Salinas highlight TGP as another potential mechanism for rapid responses to climate shifts. “In light of global climate change, transgenerational effects of temperature may be incredibly important mechanisms for coping with altered thermal regimes,” said Dr. Munch.

Sheepshead minnows

In the experiment, the team collected several hundred adult sheepshead minnows from the Gulf Islands National Seashore in Gulf Breeze, Florida, and brought them to the fish facility at Stony Brook University in August 2009. To test for thermal TGP in growth, parents were held at several different temperatures and growth of their offspring was subsequently measured.  After seven days of parental temperature exposure, offspring growth was the same for all parents.  However, after 30-days of temperature exposure, offspring grew best at their parents’ temperature.  The experiment was fully replicated and repeated, each time revealing the same result that offspring from high (34° Celsius) and low (24° Celsius) temperature parents grew best at high and low temperatures, respectively. “The differences in growth …

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