The evolution of transgenerational integration of information in fluctuating environments

Friday seminar by Olof Leimar. NB: Note the time.



Organisms can have divergent paths of development, resulting in adult phenotypic variation. The developmental path can be influenced by cues passed on by the mother and by directly perceived environmental cues, as well as by genetic variation present in a population. In fluctuating environments, natural selection may favour organisms that efficiently integrate different sources of information about the likely success of phenotypic alternatives. In such situations, it can be beneficial to pass on maternal cues for offspring to respond to. A maternal cue could be based on environmental cues directly perceived by the mother, but partly also on the cues that were passed on by the grandmother.

I have used mathematical models to investigate how the passing of maternal cues and the integration of different sources of information evolves as a response to qualitatively different kinds of temporal and spatial environmental fluctuations. The models show that passing of maternal cues and transgenerational integration of sources of information readily evolves. Factors like the degree of temporal autocorrelation, the predictive accuracy of different environmental cues, and the level of gene flow strongly influence the structure of adaptive maternal cues and the relative weights given to different sources of information. I will outline the main features of the relation between the characteristics of environmental fluctuations and adaptive systems of phenotype determination.

Olof Leimar
Department of Zoology, Stockholm University

Published Feb. 6, 2012 2:18 PM