Revisiting mechanisms and functions of prenatal hormone-mediated maternal effects using avian species as a model

Ton G. G. Groothuis*, Bin-Yan Hsu, Neeraj Kumar, Barbara Tschirren

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Maternal effects can adaptively modulate offspring developmental trajectories in variable but predictable environments. Hormone synthesis is sensitive to environmental factors, and maternal hormones are thus a powerful mechanism to transfer environmental cues to the next generation. Birds have become a key model for the study of hormone-mediated maternal effects because the embryo develops outside the mother's body, facilitating the measurement and manipulation of prenatal hormone exposure. At the same time, birds are excellent models for the integration of both proximate and ultimate approaches, which is key to a better understanding of the evolution of hormone-mediated maternal effects. Over the past two decades, a surge of studies on hormone-mediated maternal effects has revealed an increasing number of discrepancies. In this review, we discuss the role of the environment, genetic factors and social interactions in causing these discrepancies and provide a framework to resolve them. We also explore the largely neglected role of the embryo in modulating the maternal signal, as well as costs and benefits of hormone transfer and expression for the different family members. We conclude by highlighting fruitful avenues for future research that have opened up thanks to new theoretical insights and technical advances in the field.

This article is part of the theme issue 'Developing differences: early-life effects and evolutionary medicine'.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20180115
Number of pages9
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences
Volume374
Issue number1770
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15-Apr-2019

Keywords

  • parental effects
  • phenotypic plasticity
  • context dependency
  • parent-offspring conflict
  • steroids
  • yolk hormones
  • YOLK TESTOSTERONE
  • THYROID-HORMONES
  • EGG-YOLK
  • SEXUAL CONFLICT
  • JAPANESE-QUAIL
  • OFFSPRING PHENOTYPE
  • MALE ATTRACTIVENESS
  • BIRD EGGS
  • ANDROGENS
  • DEPOSITION

Cite this