Parent-to-offspring transfer of sublethal effects of copper exposure: Metabolic rate and life-history traits of Daphnia
In ecological communities, pollution driven perturbations exert immediate effects on sensitive individuals, but these effects may be transmitted among interacting organisms and spread over the community through several paths. This makes the assessment and prediction of ecological consequences of pollution difficult. The propagation of perturbation effects among organisms can be horizontal among organisms that coexist in space and time, and vertical among organism that belong to different generations. The latter process is poorly understood, in particular in planktonic organisms facing metal pollution. In this study we evaluate the vertical transfer of effects driven by sublethal copper stress on the heartbeat rate, somatic growth and fertility of Daphnia pulex. In order to evaluate this, we performed a factorial experiment in which parental and filial generations were exposed to both copper-enriched and control media. We found that parental exposure to copper exerted a significant effect on the heartbeat rate, somatic growth and fertility of offspring, revealing a transgenerational effect in D. pulex. This response may be explained by a higher resource investment on repair/detoxification processes in the parental generation, allocating fewer resources to offspring quality. Our results suggest that responsiveness of organisms to stress is dependent on parental history.