Aphids and mycorrhizal fungi shape maternal effects in Senecio vulgaris

Ruth Chitty, Alan Gange

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Plant performance in any one generation is affected not only by the prevailing environmental conditions, but also by the conditions experienced by the parental generation of those plants. These maternal effects have been recorded in a many plant species, but the influence of external biotic (as opposed to abiotic) factors on shaping maternal effects have been rarely examined. Furthermore, almost all previous studies have taken place over one plant generation, rather than across multiple generations. Here, we studied the influence of insect herbivory and arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungal colonisation on the shaping of maternal effects in the annual forb Senecio vulgaris. We grew plants with and without aphids (Myzus persicae) and AM fungi (hereafter termed ‘induction events’) over four successive generations, wherein seeds from plants in any one treatment were used to grow plants of the same treatment in the next generation, all in identical environmental condi-tions. We found strong evidence of maternal effects in the second plant generation, i.e. after one induction event. These plants took longer to germinate, flowered in a shorter time, produced lighter seeds and were shorter and of lower biomass than their parents. Aphid attack tended to enhance these effects, while AM fungi had little influence. However, thereafter there was a gradual recovery in these parameters, so that plants experiencing three inductions showed similar life history parameters to those in the original generation. We conclude that experiments investi-gating maternal effects need to be performed over multiple plant generations and that biotic factors such as insects and mycorrhizas must also be taken into account, along with abiotic factors, such as nutrient and water availability.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2150
JournalPlants Basel
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - 18 Aug 2022


  • herbivory
  • insect conservation
  • arbuscular mycorrhiza
  • maternal effects
  • Myzus persicae
  • Senecio vulgaris

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