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The ecological significance of developmental stress: how early life experiences shape a resistant phenotype.

A major challenge for ecologists and evolutionary biologists is in understanding how organisms will face the ongoing environmental changes. A hitherto unconsidered route whereby organisms adjust their phenotype to their environment is through early life priming to stressful conditions. Although the importance of early life priming in ageing research is increasingly advocated, we lack experimental studies that test whether early life priming of stress responses improves resilience to later life stress exposure and whether this results in organisms better able to reproduce. In this project, I propose to examine experimentally for the first time whether early life priming to oxidative stress increases the capacity of individuals to withstand oxidative stress later in life, whether this early life priming increases lifetime reproductive success and whether this early life priming offsets any detrimental effects of maternal age on the offspring. This innovative project that integrates state of the art developments in ecology and physiology will be of key importance to develop models and to set new standard metrics to assess and predict the responses of natural animal populations to a changing world.
Date:1 Oct 2016  →  31 Dec 2016
Disciplines:Animal biology, Genetics, Veterinary medicine