Moms pass defensive vigor to offspring
Mothers who have faced adversity produce kids who are physically better equipped to deal with the hardships of life, suggests a study by a UC Davis researcher.
Examining wild radish plants and the water flea Daphnia, ecologist Anurag Agravval and colleagues found that defensive responses triggered in both species by their respective predators were passed on to the offspring, even though the young were not under attack.
Evidence of such “maternally induced” defenses is reported in the Sept. 2 issue of the journal Nature.
The findings may have implications for the ways in which insect pests are managed in crops grown for seed production, Agrawal noted. For example, seeds produced by plants that were heavily sprayed with pesticides to protect them against insects mav not be as hardy as seeds produced by plants that endured some level of insect attack.
“We've generally believed that if plants are being hammered by insect pests they won't produce as healthy seeds as would undamaged plants,” Agrawal said. “But the results of this study seem to indicate the opposite to be true.”