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Title: Parental effects in Senecio vulgaris
Author: Chitty, Ruth Patricia
ISNI:       0000 0004 8500 5213
Awarding Body: Royal Holloway, University of London
Current Institution: Royal Holloway, University of London
Date of Award: 2018
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Parental effects are traits that are passed between generations of organisms to help the next generation survive. They have been shown to be present in plants but little is understood about their ecological value. Only a few ecological studies account for parental effects in their experimental design and there is much debate about whether parental effects are fully controlled for before beginning an experiment. Furthermore, there are few studies into the influence of mycorrhizal colonisation and insect herbivory on parental effects. These factors have been shown to affect plants within generations, so it was hypothesised that these influences could be manifest between generations. This is the first study to test the effects of mycorrhizas and herbivory on parental effects over multiple generations. The first part of this thesis explores how long parental effects were visible for over multiple generations of Senecio vulgaris and whether the addition of mycorrhizas and aphid herbivory altered any of the effects observed. Parental effects were observed over multiple generations instead of the one-generation that was suggested by previous literature. The presence of aphids and mycorrhizas altered the growth of offspring, for example herbivory in the parental generation delayed growth in the offspring generation, while mycorrhizas in the previous generation increased the growth rate of the offspring. The alteration was dependent upon the trait being measured. The second part of this thesis explores the mechanisms for passing on the parental effects. One potential mechanism explored was the vertical transmission of endophytic fungi but none of the parental effects could be attributed to the endophytic community present within the plants. The other was the epigenetic change to DNA methylation. Methylation of DNA seems to alter the parental effects on a plant's growth rate, but many other life history parameters were unchanged. The results highlighted that parental effects persist across multiple generations of Senecio vulgaris, so many ecological studies are not accounting for these traits. This could have consequences not only for the growth of plants in natural communities, but also for the conduct of many controlled experiments.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Senecio vulgaris ; Parental Effects ; Epigenetics