Transgenerational Plasticity in Human-Altered Environments

Sarah C. Donelan, Jennifer K. Hellmann, Alison M. Bell, Barney Luttbeg, John L. Orrock, Michael J. Sheriff, Andrew Sih

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Our ability to predict how species will respond to human-induced rapid environmental change (HIREC) may depend upon our understanding of transgenerational plasticity (TGP), which occurs when environments experienced by previous generations influence phenotypes of subsequent generations. TGP evolved to help organisms cope with environmental stressors when parental environments are highly predictive of offspring environments. HIREC can alter conditions that favored TGP in historical environments by reducing parents’ ability to detect environmental conditions, disrupting previous correlations between parental and offspring environments, and interfering with the transmission of parental cues to offspring. Because of the propensity to produce errors in these processes, TGP will likely generate negative fitness outcomes in response to HIREC, though beneficial fitness outcomes may occur in some cases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)115-124
Number of pages10
JournalTrends in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2020


  • climate change
  • human-induced rapid environmental change
  • maternal effects
  • parental effects
  • phenotypic plasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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