Fluctuating asymmetry, fecundity and development time in Drosophila: is there an association under optimal and stress conditions?

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A number of studies have reported a significant negative association between fluctuating asymmetry (FA) of bilateral morphological traits and individual fitness traits, but almost all of these are unreplicated and based on small sample sizes using single trait estimates of FA. We therefore tested if there was a relationship between the FA of five bilateral traits and fecundity and development time in Drosophila in a multiple replicated experimental design. Stressed treatments were included to increase the variability of traits and to test whether associations among traits were affected by changes in the environment. Significant positive relationships were found between the size of wing characters and mean fecundity for the 5-day period and this relationship tended to be stronger in the stress treatments. No association was found between FA and mean fecundity for any of the traits measured. Similarly, a significant positive relationship was detected between wing trait size and development time but no association was detected between trait FA and development time. There were no differences between mean fecundity or development time of extreme asymmetry phenotypes compared with modal phenotypes. These results are discussed with reference to suggestions in the literature that FA can be used to estimate individual fitness.

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