Hybrids from crosses of different species have been reported to display decreased developmental stability when compared to their pure species, which is conventionally attributed to a breakdown of coadapted gene complexes. Drosophila subobscura and its close relative D. madeirensis were hybridized in the laboratory to test the hypothesis that genuine fluctuating asymmetry, measured as the within-individual variance between right and left wings that results from random perturbations in development, would significantly increase after interspecific hybridization. When sires of D. subobscura were mated to heterospecific females following a hybrid half-sib breeding design, F1 hybrid females showed a large bilateral asymmetry with a substantial proportion of individuals having an asymmetric index larger than 5% of total wing size. Such an anomaly, however, cannot be plainly explained by an increase of developmental instability in hybrids but is the result of some aberrant developmental processes. Our findings suggest that interspecific hybrids are as able as their parents to buffer developmental noise, notwithstanding the fact that their proper bilateral development can be harshly compromised. Together with the low correspondence between the covariation structures of the interindividual genetic components and the within-individual ones from a Procrustes analysis, our data also suggest that the underlying processes that control (genetic) canalization and developmental stability do not share a common mechanism. We argue that the conventional account of decreased developmental stability in interspecific hybrids needs to be reappraised.
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Vol. 60 • No. 4