Chen Cheng-Yi

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  • Article
    Plasticity in parental effects confers rapid larval thermal tolerance in the estuarine anemone Nematostella vectensis
    (The Company of Biologists, 2021-03-11) Rivera, Hanny E. ; Chen, Cheng-Yi ; Gibson, Matthew C. ; Tarrant, Ann M.
    Parental effects can prepare offspring for different environments and facilitate survival across generations. We exposed parental populations of the estuarine anemone, Nematostella vectensis, from Massachusetts to elevated temperatures and quantified larval mortality across a temperature gradient. We found that parental exposure to elevated temperatures resulted in a consistent increase in larval thermal tolerance, as measured by the temperature at which 50% of larvae die (LT50), with a mean increase in LT50 of 0.3°C. Larvae from subsequent spawns returned to baseline thermal thresholds when parents were returned to normal temperatures, indicating plasticity in these parental effects. Histological analyses of gametogenesis in females suggested that these dynamic shifts in larval thermal tolerance may be facilitated by maternal effects in non-overlapping gametic cohorts. We also compared larvae from North Carolina (a genetically distinct population with higher baseline thermal tolerance) and Massachusetts parents, and observed that larvae from heat-exposed Massachusetts parents had thermal thresholds comparable to those of larvae from unexposed North Carolina parents. North Carolina parents also increased larval thermal tolerance under the same high-temperature regime, suggesting that plasticity in parental effects is an inherent trait for N. vectensis. Overall, we find that larval thermal tolerance in N. vectensis shows a strong genetic basis and can be modulated by parental effects. Further understanding of the mechanisms behind these shifts can elucidate the fate of thermally sensitive ectotherms in a rapidly changing thermal environment.