Journal of evolutionary biology vol:22 issue:8 pages:1695-1707
Developmental instability (DI) is the sensitivity of a developing trait to random noise and can be measured by degrees of directionally random asymmetry [fluctuating asymmetry (FA)]. FA has been shown to increase with loss of genetic variation and inbreeding as measures of genetic stress, but associations vary among studies. Directional selection and evolutionary change of traits have been hypothesized to increase the average levels of FA of these traits and to increase the association strength between FA and population-level genetic variation. We test these two hypotheses in three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus L.) populations that recently colonized the freshwater habitat. Some traits, like lateral bone plates, length of the pelvic spine, frontal gill rakers and eye size, evolved in response to selection regimes during colonization. Other traits, like distal gill rakers and number of pelvic fin rays, did not show such phenotypic shifts. Contrary to a priori predictions, average FA did not systematically increase in traits that were under presumed directional selection, and the increases observed in a few traits were likely to be attributable to other factors. However, traits under directional selection did show a weak but significantly stronger negative association between FA and selectively neutral genetic variation at the population level compared with the traits that did not show an evolutionary change during colonization. These results support our second prediction, providing evidence that selection history can shape associations between DI and population-level genetic variation at neutral markers, which potentially reflect genetic stress. We argue that this might explain at least some of the observed heterogeneities in the patterns of asymmetry.