A maternal effect can be considered a causal effect of the parent phenotype on the phenotype of its offspring. Maternal effects contribute fundamentally to organismal life cycles. Maternal effects also contribute to phenotypic variation, to fitness differences between individuals, and to heredity. They are therefore important to many fields of evolutionary biology, which has generated a large and heterogeneous body of literature. One of the earliest (and still most important) motivations to study maternal effects in ecology and evolution is that they influence how populations respond to environmental change. Traits that are affected by maternal effects can exhibit different evolutionary dynamics compared to traits that are not influenced by parents. Maternal effects can also make population size fluctuate over time and contribute to range expansion. Many studies of reproductive investment and parental care are effectively studies of maternal effects, even if the term was not widely used in this context before the 1990s. While traits of parents and offspring can be expected to be co-adapted, the evolution of maternal effects is complicated by the fact that parents and offspring can have different fitness optima: a phenomenon known as “parent-offspring conflict.” Maternal effects are also widely studied in the context of phenotypic plasticity. The parent can act as a cue that enables offspring to adjust their phenotype to match local conditions, a phenomenon often referred to as “adaptive transgenerational plasticity.” Transfer of information between generations is one way to think of inheritance, and the evolution of non-genetic inheritance is one of the more recent additions to the growing literature on maternal effects and evolution. To handle this diversity of perspectives, the sections below are divided into main research themes.
No single source covers all aspects of maternal effects in evolutionary biology, but the edited volume Mousseau and Fox 1998a covers many of the main themes (more than implied by the title). A theme issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London provides an updated coverage of problem agendas and perspectives (Uller, et al. 2009). Bonduriansky and Day 2009 covers a number of general issues, and Maestripieri and Mateo 2009 features several key themes in maternal effects research using examples from mammals. Uller 2012 covers some aspects of the evolution of maternal effects from a developmental perspective. Sultan 2015 is rich in examples of maternal effects and their ecological and evolutionary implications, in particular for plants, while Marshall, et al. 2008 is a concise general overview with examples of maternal effects in marine environments. Bernardo 1996 and Rossiter 1996 are two early general overviews.
Bernardo, J. 1996. Maternal effects in animal ecology. American Zoologist 36:83–105.
An early influential overview of maternal effects.
Bonduriansky, R., and T. Day. 2009. Nongenetic inheritance and its evolutionary implications. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics 40.1:103–125.
A general overview of the evolutionary implications of maternal effects under the framework of non-genetic inheritance.
Maestripieri, D., and J. M. Mateo. 2009. Maternal effects in mammals. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.
Covers maternal effects research on mammals, with many evolutionary aspects.
Marshall, D. J., R. M. Allen, and A. J. Crean. 2008. The ecological and evolutionary importance of maternal effects in the sea. In Oceanography and marine biology: An annual review. Vol. 46. Edited by R. N. Gibson, R. J. A. Atkinson, and J. D. M. Gordon, 203–250. Enfield, NH: Science Publishers.
A general introduction and extensive coverage of the ecological and evolutionary implications of maternal effects in marine animals.
Mousseau, T. A., and C. W. Fox. 1998a. Maternal effects as adaptations. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.
A landmark volume that covers key themes in maternal effects research and had a significant impact on the field.
Rossiter, M. C. 1996. Incidence and consequences of inherited environmental effects. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 27:451–476.
An early influential overview of maternal effects.
Sultan, S. E. 2015. Organism and environment. Ecological development, niche construction, and adaptation. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.
A book that provides an ecological perspective on the evolution of development, with extensive coverage of maternal effects.
Uller, T. 2012. Parental effects in development and evolution. In The evolution of parental care. Edited by N. J. Royle, P. T. Smiseth, and M. Kölliker, 247–266. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.
A developmental perspective on the evolution of maternal effects.
Uller, T., E. Wapstra, and A. V. Badyaev. 2009. Evolution of parental effects: Conceptual issues and empirical patterns. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B 365:1520.
An edited theme issue that contains several well-cited papers on key themes in maternal effects research.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
- Adaptive Radiation
- Ancient DNA
- Behavioral Ecology
- Canalization and Robustness
- Character Displacement
- Cognition, Evolution of
- Constraints, Evolutionary
- Contemporary Evolution
- Convergent Evolution
- Cooperation and Conflict: Microbes to Humans
- Cooperative Breeding in Insects and Vertebrates
- Cryptic Female Choice
- Darwin, Charles
- Disease Virulence, Evolution of
- Ecological Speciation
- Epigenetics and Behavior
- Eusocial Insects as a Model for Understanding Altruism, Co...
- Evidence of Evolution, The
- Evolution and Development: Genes and Mutations Underlying ...
- Evolution, Cultural
- Evolution of Antibiotic Resistance
- Evolution of New Genes
- Evolution of Plant Mating Systems
- Evolution of Specialization
- Evolutionary Biology of Aging
- Evolutionary Biomechanics
- Evolutionary Computation
- Evolutionary Ecology of Communities
- Experimental Evolution
- Field Studies of Natural Selection
- Founder Effect Speciation
- Frequency-Dependent Selection
- Fungi, Evolution of
- Gene Duplication
- Gene Expression, Evolution of
- Gene Flow
- Genetics, Ecological
- Genome Evolution
- Geographic Variation
- Group Selection
- History of Evolutionary Thought, 1860–1925
- History of Evolutionary Thought before Darwin
- History of Evolutionary Thought Since 1930
- Human Behavioral Ecology
- Human Evolution
- Hybrid Speciation
- Hybrid Zones
- Identifying the Genomic Basis Underlying Phenotypic Variat...
- Inbreeding and Inbreeding Depression
- Inclusive Fitness
- Innovation, Evolutionary
- Kin Selection
- Land Plants, Evolution of
- Landscape Genetics
- Landscapes, Adaptive
- Language, Evolution of
- Macroevolutionary Rates
- Male-Male Competition
- Mass Extinction
- Mate Choice
- Maternal Effects
- Medicine, Evolutionary
- Meiotic Drive
- Modern Synthesis, The
- Molecular Clocks
- Molecular Phylogenetics
- Mutualism, Evolution of
- Natural Selection in Human Populations
- Natural Selection in the Genome, Detecting
- Neutral Theory
- New Zealand, Evolutionary Biogeography of
- Niche Construction
- Niche Evolution
- Origin and Early Evolution of Animals
- Origin of Eukaryotes
- Origin of Life, The
- Paradox of Sex
- Parental Care, Evolution of
- Personality Differences, Evolution of
- Phenotypic Plasticity
- Phylogenetic Comparative Methods and Tests of Macroevoluti...
- Phylogenetic Trees, Interpretation of
- Polyploid Speciation
- Population Genetics
- Population Structure
- Psychology, Evolutionary
- Punctuated Equilibria
- Quantitative Genetic Variation and Heritability
- Reaction Norms, Evolution of
- Reproductive Proteins, Evolution of
- Selection, Directional
- Selection, Disruptive
- Selection Gradients
- Selection, Natural
- Selection, Sexual
- Selfish Genes
- Sexual Conflict
- Sexual Selection and Speciation
- Sexual Size Dimorphism
- Speciation Genetics and Genomics
- Speciation, Sympatric
- Species Concepts
- Sperm Competition
- Systems Biology
- Taxonomy and Classification
- Tetrapod Evolution
- Trends, Evolutionary
- Wallace, Alfred Russel