Exposure to hot temperatures during lactation in striped hamsters stunts offspring growth and decreases future reproductive performance of female offspring
Exposure to high temperatures (heatwaves) is rapidly emerging as an important issue of climate change, in particular for female mammals during lactation. High temperatures adversely affect the ability to dissipate heat, which has negative effects on reproductive output. The cumulative effects on growth of F1 offspring after weaning, and future reproductive performance of offspring, remain uncertain. In this study, F1 mice weaned from mothers lactating at 21 and 32.5 degrees C were housed at 21 degrees C from day 19 until day 56 of age, during which food intake and body mass were measured. The F1 adult females that were weaned at the two temperatures were bred and then exposed to 32.5 degrees C during lactation. Energy intake and milk output, and litter size and mass, were determined. The F1 adults weaned at 32.5 degrees C consumed less food and had lower body mass than their counterparts weaned at 21 degrees C. Several visceral organs or reproductive tissues were significantly lower in mass in F1 weaned at 32.5 degrees C than at 21 degrees C. The exposure to 32.5 degrees C significantly decreased energy intake, milk output and litter mass in F1 adult females during lactation. The F1 adult females weaned at 32.5 degrees C produced less milk and raised lighter pups than those previously weaned at 21 degrees C. The data suggest that transient exposure to hot temperatures during lactation has long-lasting impacts on offspring, including stunted growth and decreases in future reproductive performance when adult. This indicates that the offspring of females previously experiencing hot temperatures have a significant fitness disadvantage.