An experimental study has shown that maternal instincts can give the offspring a leg up in life. Stephen Proulx, an evolutionary biologist, is the study’s author and the hermaphroditic worm is its subject. The study is published in PLOS Biology.
It is known that environmental factors like maternal weight can affect fetus size and the transfer of nutrients and hormes during pregnancy can affect offspring development. We know that natural selection is a force which drives species development and on an individual level. The researchers were able to produce sixty generations of the worm to look at two variations in the maternal environment. They looked at the effect of a normal vs. an anoxic maternal environment. Mothers who lived in a normal oxygen environment were able to provide a cushion to reduce the stress to the oxygen deprived embryo.
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