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Synergistic effects of parental and embryonic exposure to predation risk on prey offspring size at emergence

Donelan, Sarah C., Trussell, Geoffrey C.
Ecology 2018 v.99 no.1 pp. 68-78
cell respiration, life history, littoral zone, parents, phenotype, predation, predator-prey relationships, progeny, risk, snails, synergism
Cues signaling predation risk can strongly influence prey phenotypes both within and between generations. Parental and embryonic effects have been shown to operate independently in response to predation risk, but how they interact to shape offspring life history traits remains largely unknown. Here, we conducted experiments to examine the synergistic impacts of parental and embryonic experiences with predation risk on offspring size at emergence in the snail, Nucella lapillus, which is an ecologically important intermediate consumer on rocky intertidal shores. We found that when embryos were exposed to predation risk, the offspring of risk‐experienced parents emerged larger than those of parents that had no risk experience. This response was not the result of increased development time, greater resource availability, or fewer emerging offspring, but may have occurred because both parental and embryonic experiences with risk increased growth efficiency, perhaps by reducing embryonic respiration rates under risk. Our results highlight the potential for organisms to be influenced by a complex history of environmental signals with important consequences for individual fitness and predator–prey interactions.