Developmental stability in Brassica cretica: the effect of crossing distance on fluctuating asymmetry in cotyledon morphology
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In the present investigation of Brassica cretica, a wild relative of the cultivated cabbage, B. oleracea, we performed an extensive crossing experiment, involving self-pollinations, random outcrosses within populations and hybridizations between populations or species, to evaluate the relationship between crossing distance and developmental stability, estimated as the absolute difference between the right and left lobe of the cotyledons. The frequency distribution of the right-minus-left scores had a narrower peak than expected for normally-distributed data, but there was no directional asymmetry or antisymmetry. Despite evidence for inbreeding depression in seedling biomass and cotyledon size, the type of cross had negligible influence on cotyledon asymmetry. Separate analyses of between-population hybrids revealed differences among progenies from different pairs of populations and a tendency for the F1 hybrid means to decrease with the geographic distance separating the parent populations, but only for the two size variables. Based on these and other observations, we propose that the degree of cotyledon asymmetry is unrelated to genome-wide characteristics, such as the level of heterozygosity and genomic co-adaptation, and that cotyledon asymmetry is unrelated to the level of genetic stress experienced by each individual. Hence, there is no reason to consider measures of asymmetry as more sensitive indicators of genetic health than conventional fitness variables.