The consequences of exposure to environmental stressors in animals is of increasing interest given the changing world we live in. Our recent paper published in the Journal of Animal Ecology explores the consequences of stress-relevant hormones for mothers and their offspring. In other words: if a mother is stressed, does this influence her offspring? And how?
This paper is part of a large-scale study that I was involved in – this part of that project was led by PhD student David Ensminger. In this study, we found that if levels of the hormone corticosterone (which increases in response to stress) were frequently elevated during gestation, this changed the behaviour of the mother, the characteristics of her eggs, and the physiology and behaviour of her offspring, even though they themselves were never exposed to a stressor. This goes a long way to helping us understand the long-term and cross-generational effects of stress-exposure.