Disentangling Genetic and Prenatal Maternal Effects on Offspring Size and Survival
University of Chicago Press
Organizational processes during prenatal development can have long-term effects on an individual's phenotype. Because these early developmental stages are sensitive to environmental influences, mothers are in a unique position to alter their offspring's phenotype by differentially allocating resources to their developing young. However, such prenatal maternal effects are difficult to disentangle from other forms of parental care, additive genetic effects, and/or other forms of maternal inheritance, hampering our understanding of their evolutionary consequences. Here we used divergent selection lines for high and low prenatal maternal investment and their reciprocal line crosses in a precocial bird-the Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica)-to quantify the relative importance of genes and prenatal maternal effects in shaping offspring phenotype. Maternal but not paternal origin strongly affected offspring body size and survival throughout development. Although the effects of maternal egg investment faded over time, they were large at key life stages. Additionally, there was evidence for other forms of maternal inheritance affecting offspring phenotype at later stages of development. Our study is among the first to successfully disentangle prenatal maternal effects from all other sources of confounding variation and highlights the important role of prenatal maternal provisioning in shaping offspring traits closely linked to fitness.
The study was financially supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (PP00P3_128386 and PP00P3_157455 to B.T.).
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from University of Chicago Press via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 188 (6), pp. 628 - 639
- Biosciences 
Place of publication