This week, EEB & the Bonier lab host Dr. Andrew McAdam (Guelph), who will talk about:
Maternal effect evolution in wild rodents
We all have a mother, and mothers often provide much of the early environment to developing offspring. The importance of mothers is widely appreciated and officially celebrated on the second Sunday in May, but these maternal effects are also fascinating from ecological and evolutionary perspectives. First, since maternal effects are experienced early in the life of their offspring mothers can have programming effects on offspring that persist into adulthood and even across generations. Second, mothers sometimes have access to environmental cues of natural selection that their offspring will experience. In this case, mothers can adaptively adjust offspring traits before their offspring experience those environments themselves. Finally, maternal effects can themselves be heritable. Maternal effect genes can provide an additional source of evolutionary potential, but since they act across generations maternal genes can lead to dramatic and sometimes counter-intuitive evolutionary responses to selection on offspring traits. I will present work that my students and I have been performing on wild deer mice and red squirrels to better understand the importance of maternal effects to evolution in nature.