Brennan H. Baker | Sonia E. Sultan | Maya Lopez-Ichikawa | Robin Waterman
Plant and animal parents may respond to environmental conditions such as resource stress by altering traits of their offspring via heritable non-genetic
effects. While such transgenerational plasticity can result in progeny phenotypes that are functionally pre-adapted to the inducing environment, it is unclear whether such parental effects measurably enhance the adult competitive success and lifetime reproductive output of progeny, and whether they may also adversely affect fitness if offspring encounter contrasting conditions. In glasshouse experiments with inbred genotypes of the annual plant Polygonum persicaria, we tested the effects of parental shade versus sun on (a) competitive performance of progeny in shade, and (b) lifetime reproductive fitness of progeny in three contrasting treatments. Shaded parents produced offspring with increased fitness in shade despite competition, as well as greater competitive impact on plant neighbours. Inherited effects of parental light conditions also significantly altered lifetime fitness: parental shade increased reproductive output for progeny in neighbour and understorey shade, but decreased fitness for progeny in sunny, dry conditions. Along with these substantial adaptive and maladaptive transgenerational effects, results show complex interactions between genotypes, parent environment and progeny conditions that underscore the role of environmental variability and change in shaping future adaptive potential.