The ontogeny of asymmetry in earwig forceps

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26 Citations (Scopus)


Fluctuating asymmetry may play an important role in the evolution of naturally selected and secondary sexual traits. However, very little is known about how asymmetries arise or how organisms maintain symmetry during development. Here I propose three mutually exclusive patterns for the development of asymmetries through consecutive growth stages: (1) compensatory growth, in which growth of the shorter side is greatest at the following growth stage; (2) persistent growth, in which growth of the longer side is greatest at the following growth stage; and (3) uncorrelated growth in which growth of the following stage is unrelated to the asymmetry at the previous one. I followed the growth in the forceps of male earwigs through four successive instars. Dyar's rule was used as a null model of insect growth. In the molt from the second to third instar, asymmetries increased through uncorrelated growth and with the magnitude but not the sign expected from Dyar's rule. However, following this, at the molts between instars 3-4 and 4-5, compensatory growth maintained asymmetries at a lower level than expected from Dyar's rule. Although there was no reduction in the absolute magnitude of asymmetry, relative asymmetry did decline. The net growth of forceps length did not follow Dyar's rule. The interpretation of patterns of growth were more sensitive and informative than the interpretation of the relations between asymmetries at consecutive instars.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-163
Number of pages7
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 1999


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