Because low developmental stability may compromise the precision with which adaptations can be reached, the variability and genetic basis of developmental stability are important evolutionary parameters. Developmental stability is also an important clue to understanding how traits are regulated to achieve their phenotypic target value. However, developmental stability must be studied indirectly through proxy variables, such as fluctuating asymmetry, that are suggested to have noisy and often nonlinear relationships to the underlying variable of interest. In this paper we first show that mean-standardized measures of variance and covariance in fluctuating asymmetry, unlike heritabilities, repeatabilities, and correlations, are linearly related to corresponding measures of variation in underlying developmental stability. We then examine the variational properties of developmental stability in a population of the Neotropical vine, Dalechampia scandens (Euphorbiaceae). By studying fluctuating asymmetry in a large number of floral characters in both selfed and outcrossed individuals in a diallel design, we assemble strong evidence that both additive genetic and individual variation and covariation in developmental stability are virtually absent in this population.
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