Preparing Offspring for a Dangerous World: Potential Costs of Being Wrong

Coslowsky, M.; Richner, H. (2012). Preparing Offspring for a Dangerous World: Potential Costs of Being Wrong. PLoS ONE, 7(11), e48840. Lawrence, Kans.: Public Library of Science 10.1371/journal.pone.0048840

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Adaptive maternal responses to stressful environments before young are born can follow two non-exclusive pathways: either the mother reduces current investment in favor of future investment, or influences offspring growth and development in order to fit offspring phenotype to the stressful environment. Inducing such developmental cues, however, may be risky if the environment changes meanwhile, resulting in maladapted offspring. Here we test the effects of a predator-induced maternal effect in a predator-free postnatal environment. We manipulated perceived predation-risk for breeding female great tits by exposing them to stuffed models of either a predatory bird or a non-predatory control. Offspring were raised either in an environment matching the maternal one by exchanging whole broods within a maternal treatment group, or in a mismatching environment by exchanging broods among the maternal treatments. Offspring growth depended on the matching of the two environments. While for offspring originating from control treated mothers environmental mismatch did not significantly change growth, offspring of mothers under increased perceived predation risk grew faster and larger in matching conditions. Offspring of predator treated mothers fledged about one day later when growing under mismatching conditions. This suggests costs paid by the offspring if mothers predict environmental conditions wrongly.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Ecology and Evolution (IEE) > Evolutionary Ecology

UniBE Contributor:

Richner, Heinz




Public Library of Science




Factscience Import

Date Deposited:

04 Oct 2013 14:41

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:12

Publisher DOI:


Web of Science ID:




URI: (FactScience: 224306)

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