In Fish, Parents’ Stressful Experiences Influence Offspring Behavior Via Epigenetic Changes
Jennifer Hellmann: Parents who are exposed to predators pass on information about risky environments to their offspring through changes in gene expression — but how that information affects offspring differs depending on the sex of the parent. My colleagues and I showed this using sticklebacks — a small species of freshwater fish whose brightly colored males care for developing eggs — in a series of papers recently published in the Journal of Animal Ecology. First, we exposed mothers and fathers to predators. Then we looked at their offspring and measured behavior as well as how genes were expressed in their brains. We found that the sex of the parent exposed to predators matters, but surprisingly, the sex of the offspring also changed how the information influenced behavior.