Fluctuating Asymmetry, Sexual Selection and Canine Teeth in Primates

J. T. Manning, A. T. Chamberlain


Fluctuating asymmetry arises as small deviations from symmetry which can be expressed on either side of the body. Increases in fluctuating asymmetry can suggest genomic stress such as results from directional selection. It has been argued that epigamic structures and weapons should show high levels of fluctuating asymmetry because sexual selection is essentially directional in nature. We tested this prediction by examining the expression of fluctuating asymmetry in the upper canines of 21 species of Old World primates. We found, for males but not for females, that asymmetry was correlated with measures of sexual selection including canine dimorphism, canine size, mass dimorphism, and intra-male competition. However, there was no significant correlation with diet type and body mass, which are only weakly associated with sexual selection. Phylogenetic inertia did not account for the association between fluctuating asymmetry and sexual selection. We also found that species with high values of canine dimorphism and intra-male competition tended to have a negative correlation between asymmetry and mean canine height, and this latter effect was present in both males and females. The implications of these findings for sexual selection theory are discussed.

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