Title
Sex and asymmetry in humans: what is the role of developmental instability?
Author
Faculty/Department
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Publication type
article
Publication
Basel ,
Subject
Biology
Source (journal)
Journal of evolutionary biology. - Basel
Volume/pages
22(2009) :3 , p. 612-622
ISSN
1010-061X
ISI
000263520900017
Carrier
E
Target language
English (eng)
Full text (Publishers DOI)
Affiliation
University of Antwerp
Abstract
Because asymmetric individuals are less attractive and may suffer from reduced fitness, bilateral asymmetry is widely believed to affect human sexual selection. Its evolutionary significance is based on the presumed relationship with developmental instability (DI). Yet, relationships between DI and bilateral asymmetry are often weak and possibly confounded by asymmetric mechanical loadings because of handedness. We related asymmetry in hands and faces to degrees of handedness and sexual behaviour in 100 humans. Handedness correlated to levels of asymmetry, thereby likely invalidating the use of asymmetry to estimate DI. For facial asymmetry, applying existing theoretical models refuted a link between asymmetry and DI. Explicit statistical modelling at the level of DI confirmed the absence of a link between DI and aspects of sexual behaviour. Nevertheless, asymmetries in both hands and face correlated significantly with sexual behaviour. We conclude that bilateral asymmetry per se, rather than its presumed link with DI, more likely relates to measures of human sexual behaviour. Because lateralization of behaviour appears widespread, evaluating the role of DI in evolution and ecology relies on a very critical selection of traits whose asymmetry can reliably reflect DI.
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