PARENTAL MEMORIES: Spotted lady’s thumb plants whose parents survived drought conditions are more hardy, perhaps due to DNA methylation patterns.WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/JAVIER MARTIN


The paper
J.J. Herman, S.E. Sultan, “DNA methylation mediates genetic variation for adaptive transgenerational plasticity,” Proc R Soc B, doi:10.1098/rspb.2016.0988, 2016.

Conventional Wisdom
The notion that organisms pass down adaptations acquired during their lifetimes to their offspring was overturned long ago by Darwinian evolution. But the concept is getting a second chance, with more nuance. Growing evidence shows that a parent’s environment sometimes does influence offspring, though the underlying process is something of a black box.

Growing up Hard
Sonia Sultan and Jacob Herman of Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, peeked into that box with experiments on a small flowering annual, Polygonum persicaria. They grew some plants in dry soil and other plants in normal soil, then raised offspring...

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