Maternal warming affects early life stages of an invasive thistle.

Research paper by R R Zhang, R S RS Gallagher, K K Shea

Indexed on: 13 Mar '12Published on: 13 Mar '12Published in: Plant Biology


Maternal environment can influence plant offspring performance. Understanding maternal environmental effects will help to bridge a key gap in the knowledge of plant life cycles, and provide important insights for species' responses under climate change. Here we show that maternal warming significantly affected the early life stages of an invasive thistle, Carduus nutans. Seeds produced by plants grown in warmed conditions had higher germination percentages and shorter mean germination times than those produced by plants under ambient conditions; this difference was most evident at suboptimal germination temperatures. Subsequent seedling emergence was also faster with maternal warming, with no cost to seedling emergence percentage and seedling growth. Our results suggest that maternal warming may accelerate the life cycle of this species via enhanced early life-history stages. These maternal effects on offspring performance, together with the positive responses of the maternal generation, may exacerbate invasions of this species under climate change.