Periodic Reporting for period 1 - EGERNIALIZARDS (FAMILY MATTERS: POST-NATAL SOCIALITY AND THE OUTCOMES OF MATERNAL STRESS IN A SOCIAL LIZARD)
Reporting period: 2019-01-07 to 2021-01-06
The overall objectives of the project are:
• (WP1) To experimentally test whether maternal stress effects depend on the post-natal social environment and the consequences of these effects for offspring fitness.
• (WP2) To identify possible physiological mechanisms for phenotypic differences between offspring from stressed and non-stressed mothers under different social conditions;
• (WP3) To test the long-term consequences of phenotypic differences arising as a result of differences in post-natal sociality and developmental stress for fitness-related traits in a wild population using long-term monitoring data;
• (WP4) To test the generality of patterns of environmental-dependence of maternal stress effects across species using a meta-analytical framework.
This meta-analysis shows that viviparous vertebrates (i.e. those that give birth to live young) are more susceptible to maternal (prenatal) stress effects relative to egg-laying vertebrates. This is an important step in understanding the likely variation in the future consequences of anthropogenic stressors such as climate change, and will form the basis of my future research.
All critical deliverables and milestones have been achieved as anticipated in months 1 - 24 (but see technical report section 5.1 for minor deviations, and how this will be addressed). Deliverables and milestones for months 24 – 36 are also on track. I anticipate a minimum of 4 scientific articles from WP 1 – 4, two of which are already in preparation and will be published in 2021 as planned.
Deliverables achieved (more details in technical report, see 1.2):
• D1.1 Corticosterone dose treatment protocol for L. whitii
• D2.1 Hormone analysis protocol for hatchling L. whitii
• D3.1 Hormone analysis protocol for adult L. whitii
Two manuscripts are currently in preparation (D1.2 D4.2).
The following milestones were achieved (more details in technical report, see 1.2):
• Study animal collection completed
• Refinement of hormone dose treatment protocol
• Maternal experimental treatment completed
• All experimental data collection completed
• Blood and tissue sample collection completed
• Validation of hormone analysis protocol
• Hormone analysis completed
• Blood sample collection (phase 1)
• Hormone analysis (phase 1)
• Meta-analysis training course completed
• Meta-analysis data collection and analysis complete
This research will illuminate the potential for variation in an important species trait (post-natal care/sociality) to influence the outcomes of a maternal effect, and therefore its potential to contribute to evolutionary change across species. Second, this work will also help to elucidate the potential role of maternal stress in natural systems, a subject of focus in evolution and ecology. Few studies have tested links between maternal stress and effects on offspring fitness, as this project does. In addition, there has recently been a call for more research integrating stress physiology in an ecological context: my project combines these novel research questions with innovative and integrative methods, combining advanced endocrine methodology and meta-analytical techniques with field experiments that place these tools firmly in an ecological framework. This study is therefore likely to contribute substantially to the fields of evolutionary biology, comparative endocrinology, and ecology. More broadly, this work specifically tests the potential for a key axis of between-species variation (whether offspring remain with their mothers after birth) and how this changes the outcomes of maternal stress. This therefore has the potential to reveal patterns in how species will be affected by anthropogenic stressors like climate change, providing insight into species of particular conservation concern.