Cross-generational effects refer to nongenetic influences of the parental phenotype or environment on offspring phenotypes. Such effects are commonly observed, but their adaptive significance is largely unresolved. We examined cross-generational effects of parental temperature on offspring fitness (estimated via a serial-transfer assay) at different temperatures in a laboratory population of Drosophila melanogaster. Parents were reared at 18°C, 25°C, or 29°C (Tpar) and then their offspring were reared at 18°C, 25°C, or 29°C (Toff) to evaluate several competing hypotheses (including an adaptive one) involving interaction effects of parental and offspring temperature on offspring fitness. The results clearly show that hotter parents are better; in other words, the higher the temperature of the parents, the higher the fitness of their offspring, independent of offspring thermal environment. These data contradict the adaptive cross-generational hypothesis, which proposes that offspring fitness is maximal when the offspring thermal regime matches the parental one. Flies with hot parents have high fitness seemingly because their own offspring develop relatively quickly, not because they have higher fecundity early in life.
Corresponding Editor: W. T. Starmer