Effects of maternal environment on offspring performance have been documented frequently in herbivorous insects. Despite this, very few cases exist in which exposure of parent insects to a resource causes the phenotype of their offspring to be adjusted in a manner that is adaptive for that resource, a phenomenon called adaptive transgenerational phenotypic plasticity. I performed a two-generation reciprocal cross-transplant experiment in the field with the soft scale insect Saissetia coffeae (Hemiptera: Coccidae) on two disparate host plant species in order to separate genetic effects from possible transgenerational plasticity. Despite striking differences in quality between host species, maternal host had no effect on overall offspring performance, and I detected no “acclimatization” to the maternal host species. However, there was a significant negative association between maternal and offspring development times, with potentially adaptive implications. Furthermore, offspring of mothers reared in an environment where scale densities were higher and scales were more frequently killed by fungi were significantly less likely to suffer from fungal attack than were offspring of mothers reared in an environment where densities were low and fungal attack was rare. Although S. coffeae does not appear to alter offspring phenotype to increase offspring fitness on these two distinct plant species, it does appear that offspring phenotype may be responding to some subtler aspects of maternal environment. In particular, the possibility of induced transgenerational prophylaxis in S. coffeae deserves further investigation.
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Vol. 58 • No. 11