Fluctuating asymmetry (subtle departures from identical expression of a trait across an axis of symmetry) in many taxa is under stabilizing selection for reduced asymmetry. However, lack of reliable estimates of genetic parameters for asymmetry variation hampers our ability to predict the evolutionary outcome of this selection. Here we report on a study, based on analysis of variation within and between isofemale lines and of generation means (line-cross analysis), designed to dissect in detail the quantitative genetics of positional fluctuating asymmetry (PFA) in bristle number in natural populations of Drosophila falleni. PFA is defined as the difference between the two sides of the body in the placement or position of components of a meristic trait. Heritability (measured at 25°C) of two related measures of PFA were 13% and 21%, both of which differed significantly from zero. In contrast, heritability estimates for fluctuating asymmetry in the total number of anterior (0.7%) and transverse (2.4%) sternopleural bristles were smaller, not significant, and in quantitative agreement with previously published estimates. Heritabilities for bristle number (trait size) were considerably greater than that for any asymmetry measure. The experimental design controlled for the potentially confounding effects of common familial environment, and repeated testing revealed that PFA differences between lines were genetically stable for up to 16 generations in the laboratory at 25°C. We performed line cross analysis between strains at the extremes of the PFA distribution (highest and lowest values); parental strains, F1, F1r (reciprocal), F2, backcross, and backcross reciprocal generations were represented. The inheritance of PFA was described best by additive and dominance effects localized to the X-chromosomes, whereas autosomal dominance effects were also detected. Epistatic, maternal, and cytoplasmic effects were not detected. The inheritance of trait size was notably more complex and involved significant autosomal additive, dominance, and epistatic effects; maternal dominance effects; and additive and dominance effects localized to the X-chromosomes. The additive genetic correlation between PFA and its associated measure of trait size was negative (−0.049), but not statistically significant, indicating that the loci contributing additive genetic effects to these traits are probably different. It is suggested that PFA may be a sensitive measure of developmental instability because PFA taps the ability of an organism to integrate interconnected developmental pathways.
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Vol. 55 • No. 3