Intergenerational Effects of Early-Life Starvation on Life History, Consumption, and Transcriptome of a Holometabolous Insect

Sarah Catherine Paul, Pragya Singh, Alice B. Dennis, Caroline Müller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Intergenerational effects, also known as parental effects in which the offspring phenotype is influenced by the parental phenotype, can occur in response to factors that occur not only in early but also in late parental life. However, little is known about how these parental life stage–specific environments interact with each other and with the offspring environment to influence offspring phenotypes, particularly in organisms that realize distinct niches across ontogeny. We examined the effects of parental larval starvation and adult reproductive environment on offspring traits under matching or mismatching offspring larval starvation conditions using the holometabolous, haplodiploid insect Athalia rosae (turnip sawfly). We show that parental larval starvation had trait-dependent intergenerational effects on both life history and consumption traits of offspring larvae, partly in interaction with offspring conditions, while there was no significant effect of parental adult reproductive environment. In addition, while offspring larval starvation led to numerous gene-and pathway-level expression differences, parental larval starvation impacted far fewer genes and only the ribosomal pathway. Our findings reveal that parental starvation evokes complex intergenerational effects on offspring life history traits, consumption patterns, and gene expression, although the effects are less pronounced than those of offspring starvation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E229-E243
Number of pages15
JournalThe American Naturalist
Issue number6
Early online date20 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


  • compensatory growth
  • intergenerational effects
  • parental effects
  • sawfly
  • starvation
  • transcriptome


Dive into the research topics of 'Intergenerational Effects of Early-Life Starvation on Life History, Consumption, and Transcriptome of a Holometabolous Insect'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this