Effects of mothers' and fathers' experience with predation risk on the behavioral development of their offspring in threespined sticklebacks

Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences
Alison M BellLaura R Stein

Abstract

Stressors experienced by parents can influence the behavioral development of their offspring. Here, we review recent studies in threespined sticklebacks (a species in which males are the sole providers of parental care) showing that when parents are exposed to an ecologically relevant stressor (predation risk), there are consequences for offspring. For example, female sticklebacks exposed to predation risk produce eggs with higher concentrations of cortisol, a stress hormone, and offspring with altered behavior and physiology. Male sticklebacks exposed to predation risk produce offspring that are less active, smaller, and in poorer condition. The precise mechanisms by which maternal and paternal experiences with predators affect offspring phenotypes are under investigation, and could include steroid hormones, olfactory cues and/or parental behavior. As in other species, some of the consequences of parental exposure to predation risk for offspring in sticklebacks might be adaptive, but depend on the stressor, the reliability of the parental and offspring environments and the evolutionary history of the population.

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