Fluctuating asymmetry of meristic traits: an isofemale line analysis in an invasive drosophilid, Zaprionus indianus
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Metric (e.g., body size) and meristic (e.g., bristle number) traits are of general use in quantitative genetic studies, and the phenotypic variance is subdivided into a genetic and a non-genetic environmental component. The non-genetic variance may have two origins: a common garden effect between individuals and a developmental instability within the same individual. Developmental instability may be studied by considering the fluctuating asymmetry (FA) between the two sides of the body. The isofemale line technique is a convenient method for investigating the architecture of natural populations but has been rarely implemented for investigating FA. In this paper, we use this experimental design for analyzing four meristic traits in eight populations of the cosmopolitan Zaprionus indianus. A study of the correlation between left and right side of each line revealed that almost 90% of the variability was due to a developmental noise, while a much higher correlation among the means of the lines from the same population was observed. A slight trend toward a directional asymmetry was observed: more thoracic bristles on the left side. Four kinds of indices, scaled or non-scaled to the mean were used for comparing the different traits. Unscaled values (mean absolute values or standard deviation of each line) revealed a linear increase with the means. Interestingly the results of ovariole number were included in the same regression. With the scaled indices (mean absolute divided by each individual value or stadard deviation devided by the mean), the differences among traits were considerably decreased, but still remained significant. The mean FA of the various traits were not correlated, suggesting that each trait harbors its own developmental stability. The CVs of FA were high with a magnitude similar to those of the trait themselves, slightly less than 10%. Finally, even with the isofemale line design, which is a powerful means for unravelling slight genetic variations, we did not to find any clear indication of a genetic component of FA under the optimal environmental conditions used in this study.