Causes and consequences of parental age effects on offspring quality

Lead Research Organisation: University of Glasgow
Department Name: College of Medical, Veterinary &Life Sci


Decades ago, Lansing showed that parental age at reproduction negatively affects offspring longevity. This "Lansing effect" has been demonstrated across taxa, and is particularly apparent in insects. However, both the proximate mechanisms and the ecological significance remain unclear. For example, do offspring of older parents die young because they age faster, or are they already frailer at birth? Are parental age effects due to chronological or biological age, and if so, do environmental causes of senescence have effects that accumulate in descendants? Our project seeks to establish how the Lansing effect links parental ageing, and offspring quality. We will use field crickets (in which the Lansing effect has recently been demonstrated) as a model. We will expose parents to high or low temperature which manipulates and decouples biological from chronological age and investigate the effects on offspring size, growth rate, and age-dependent mortality. We will also determine the underlying proximate mechanisms that cause deterioration in the germ line by examining promising markers of DNA integrity in germ cells; 8-OHdG, oxidative damage, and telomere length. Our study has the potential to radically shape our view of the mechanisms by which the experiences of parents can affect the lives of their descendants, providing key insights into the process of senescence and into trans-generational impacts of human-induced environmental change.


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