Young fish grow best at the same temperature as their parents

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Fish grow best at the temperatures their parents were kept in, according to a study published in a recent issue of the journal Ecology Letters.

Santiago Salinas and Stephan Munch found that adult Sheepshead minnows (Cyprinodon variegatus) can precondition their offspring to grow the fastest at the same temperature they lived in after conducting a series of experiments on several hundred individuals collected from Florida.

The authors held adult fish at several different temperatures (24°C, 29°C and 34°C) and measured the growth of their offspring.

They found that keeping the parents at a single temperature for seven days had no effect on offspring growth rate (relative to temperature), but a longer period of 30 days’ exposure revealed the offspring to grow the fastest at their parents’ temperature.

The fishes were demonstrating an effect known as transgenerational plasticity (TGP) in which environmental cues experienced by either parent prior to fertilisation changes how their offspring respond to the environment.

The authors propose that TGP is another potential mechanism for rapid responses to climate change.

According to Stephan Munch; 'I think the most exciting part about the research is that, although there has been a lot of work on transgenerational effects on fish, this is the first demonstration of a transgenerational effect of temperature. From a practical point of view, if such effects occur in other species, aquaculture programs could potentially make large gains by manipulating the parental environment before breeding. There are good reasons to believe that these effects will occur in many species, but we've only just started looking."

For more information, see the paper: Salinas, S and SB Munch (2012) Thermal legacies: transgenerational effects of temperature on growth in a vertebrate. Ecology Letters 15, pp. 159–163.

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