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Water restriction in viviparous lizards causes transgenerational effects on behavioral anxiety and immediate effects on exploration behavior

Abstract : Behavioral plasticity induced by maternal effects is crucial in adjusting offspring phenotype to match the environment. In particular, changes in water availability during development may initiate a range of behavioral responses, such as natal dispersal, but the contribution of maternal effects from water stress in explaining behavioral variation has been overlooked so far. In this study, we examined behavioral plasticity of juvenile common lizards (Zootoca vivipara) in response to changes in pre-natal and post-natal hydric conditions. We exposed pregnant mothers either to a moderate water restriction or to ad libitum access to water. We used neutral arena tests to measure repeatedly activity and space use behaviors of their offspring, either in dry or wet soil conditions, at two distinct life stages (juveniles and yearlings) in order to quantify behavioral flexibility, age differences, and personalities (consistent inter-individual differences). Juveniles and yearlings had greater exploration scores in dry than wet conditions regardless of the pre-natal conditions. Pre-natal water restriction and dry post-natal conditions enhanced thigmotaxis (i.e., a behavior related to anxiety) in juveniles. Maternal environment did not influence behavioral flexibility nor the behavior of yearlings. Behaviors were barely repeatable in juveniles and inconsistent through early life. Assuming that dry conditions may initiate flight responses, these results suggest complex relationships between the developmental timing of water stress, exploration and anxiety behaviors, and dispersal syndromes. Significance statement Water restriction should initiate a range of behaviors related to a flight response. However, there is little evidence that changes in water availability across development influence offspring behavior in wild animals. Experiments with lizards demonstrate that maternal water restriction increased the anxiety of their juveniles, whereas their exploration was higher in dry environments. Thus, water availability may be a critical determinant of space use behavior and dispersal syndromes.
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https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-02129406
Contributor : Jean-François Le Galliard Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Tuesday, May 14, 2019 - 9:36:58 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, May 10, 2022 - 3:26:01 PM

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David Rozen-Rechels, Andréaz Dupoué, Sandrine Meylan, Beatriz Decencière, Sophie Guingand, et al.. Water restriction in viviparous lizards causes transgenerational effects on behavioral anxiety and immediate effects on exploration behavior. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, Springer Verlag, 2018, 72 (2), pp.1-14. ⟨10.1007/s00265-018-2443-4⟩. ⟨hal-02129406⟩

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