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Keywords:

  • developmental stability;
  • fitness;
  • heritability;
  • male dimorphism;
  • positional asymmetry

We studied fluctuating asymmetry (FA) in two generations of the bulb mite Rhizoglyphus robini. We used Procrustes analyses, which allow the comparison of dimensionless shapes of body sides. We found little (<4%) directional asymmetry in either sex. Of the two morphs occurring in this species, fighters, which possess a thickened third pair of legs, exhibited higher FA than did scramblers, the morph with unmodified legs; this may reflect the costliness of the fighter developmental pathway. There was a negative relationship between FA and female fecundity, but the regression slope of mid-offspring on mid-parent FA was not significantly greater than zero. We propose that heritability estimates can be biased downwards if highly asymmetric individuals produce fewer viable offspring. However, we found no significant association between parental FA and the proportion of viable embryos in their broods. Furthermore, we hypothesized that parental FA might indicate the presence of largely recessive mutations deleterious to developmental homeostasis that would cause increased embryo mortality under inbreeding. However, we found no significant association between FA of parents that were mated to their full sibs and the proportion of viable embryos in their inbred progeny. © 2003 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2003, 80, 499–505.