Individual differences in developmental precision and fluctuating asymmetry: a model and its implications


Steven W. Gangestad Department of Psychology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131, USA. Fax: (505) 277 1394; e-mail:


In many studies, fluctuating asymmetry (FA) has been used as a measure of individual differences in developmental imprecision. A model of how variation in developmental imprecision is associated with variation in asymmetry is described and applied to important issues about FA. If individual differences in developmental imprecision exist, asymmetry due to developmental error should be leptokurtically distributed. Moreover, the greater the magnitude of individual differences, the greater the leptokurtosis. Asymmetry purportedly due to developmental error in a variety of species is indeed leptokurtically distributed. The level of leptokurtosis suggests that the CV in individual differences in underlying developmental imprecision is generally 20–25, consistent with it being a fitness trait. In addition, data suggest that: (1) the individual differences that underlie the developmental imprecision of different traits are largely shared across traits and not trait-specific; (2) the heritability of these individual differences may average between 35 and 55%, despite small heritabilities of individual trait FAs; and (3) correlations between FA and fitness traits or components suggest high correlations between underlying variation in developmental precision and fitness in many species. Theoretical implications are discussed.