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In responding to predation risk, secondhand experience can be as good as new

A new animal biology study of stickleback fish by Illinois animal biologist Alison Bell (left) and former Illinois doctoral student Laura Stein (right) shows that individuals show the same molecular and developmental responses to their own versus their parent’s exposure to predators

Throughout the living world, parents have many ways of gifting their offspring with information they will need to help them survive. A new study in Nature Ecology and Evolution examining the effects of exposure to predators across two generations of stickleback fish yielded a surprising insight into how such transgenerational information is used.

The study was led by Laura Stein, who began the work as a doctoral student in the laboratory of University of Illinois animal biologist Alison Bell. Stein, Bell, and doctoral student Abbas Bukhari found that when either a stickleback father or his offspring experienced the threat of predation, the offspring responded with the same adaptive strategy—developing to be smaller and more timid. Even if both generations experienced the threat, the developmental differences in size and behavior remained the same.

Read the full article at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology


Publication Date: 07/17/2018
Photo credits: L. Brian Stauffer
Editor: Claudia Lutz