Variation in measurement error in asymmetry studies : a new model, simulations and application
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Engineering sciences. Technology
, p. 284-293
University of Antwerp
The importance of measurement error in studies of asymmetry has been acknowledged for a long time. It is now common practice to acquire independent repeated measurements of trait values and to estimate the degree of measurement error relative to the amount of asymmetry. Methods also allow obtaining unbiased estimates of asymmetry, both at the population and individual level. One aspect that has been ignored is potential between-individual variation in measurement error. In this paper, I develop a new method to investigate this variation in measurement error and to generate unbiased estimates of individual asymmetries. Simulations show that variation in measurement error can indeed result in biased estimates of individual asymmetry and that the proposed method adequately provides unbiased estimates. The method is applied to two empirical datasets and shows that, at least in some traits, substantial variations in measurement occur. The limitations of the model are discussed.