Genetic variation for maternal effects on parasite susceptibility

M. Stjernman, T. J. Little

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The expression of infectious disease is increasingly recognized to be impacted by maternal effects, where the environmental conditions experienced by mothers alter resistance to infection in offspring, independent of heritability. Here, we studied how maternal effects (high or low food availability to mothers) mediated the resistance of the crustacean Daphnia magna to its bacterial parasite Pasteuria ramosa. We sought to disentangle maternal effects from the effects of host genetic background by studying how maternal effects varied across 24 host genotypes sampled from a natural population. Under low-food conditions, females produced offspring that were relatively resistant, but this maternal effect varied strikingly between host genotypes, i.e. there were genotype by maternal environment interactions. As infection with P.ramosa causes a substantial reduction in host fecundity, this maternal effect had a large effect on host fitness. Maternal effects were also shown to impact parasite fitness, both because they prevented the establishment of the parasites and because even when parasites did establish in the offspring of poorly fed mothers, and they tended to grow more slowly. These effects indicate that food stress in the maternal generation can greatly influence parasite susceptibility and thus perhaps the evolution and coevolution of host similar to parasite interactions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2357-2363
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Issue number11
Early online date16 Aug 2011
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2011

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Daphnia
  • maternal care
  • natural selection
  • Pasteuria ramosa


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