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J Evol Biol. 2012 Jun;25(6):1149-62. doi: 10.1111/j.1420-9101.2012.02502.x. Epub 2012 Apr 16.

Effects of parental radiation exposure on developmental instability in grasshoppers.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208, USA.


Mutagenic and epigenetic effects of environmental stressors and their transgenerational consequences are of interest to evolutionary biologists because they can amplify natural genetic variation. We studied the effect of parental exposure to radioactive contamination on offspring development in lesser marsh grasshopper Chorthippus albomarginatus. We used a geometric morphometric approach to measure fluctuating asymmetry (FA), wing shape and wing size. We measured time to sexual maturity to check whether parental exposure to radiation influenced offspring developmental trajectory and tested effects of radiation on hatching success and parental fecundity. Wings were larger in early maturing individuals born to parents from high radiation sites compared to early maturing individuals from low radiation sites. As time to sexual maturity increased, wing size decreased but more sharply in individuals from high radiation sites. Radiation exposure did not significantly affect FA or shape in wings nor did it significantly affect hatching success and fecundity. Overall, parental radiation exposure can adversely affect offspring development and fitness depending on developmental trajectories although the cause of this effect remains unclear. We suggest more direct measures of fitness and the inclusion of replication in future studies to help further our understanding of the relationship between developmental instability, fitness and environmental stress.

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