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Symmetry 2017, 9(3), 44; doi:10.3390/sym9030044

Changes of Fluctuating Asymmetry with Age in Human Fetuses and Young Infants

1
Evolutionary Ecology Group, Campus Drie Eiken, University of Antwerp, Universiteitsplein 1, 2610 Wilrijk, Belgium
2
Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Endless Forms, Vondellaan 55 , 2332 AA Leiden, The Netherlands
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: John H. Graham
Received: 6 February 2017 / Revised: 13 March 2017 / Accepted: 14 March 2017 / Published: 21 March 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Symmetry in Human Evolutionary Biology)
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Abstract

(1) Background: Developmental instability (DI), often measured by fluctuating asymmetry (FA), increases with stress in humans, yet little is known about how stress affects the changes of asymmetry with age. More specifically, it is unknown if fetuses experiencing a major congenital abnormality will express higher FA already during early development or only at a later age; (2) Methods: We combine two datasets to study associations between age and asymmetry in human fetuses and young infants. One population consists of fetuses from spontaneous abortions and early deceased infants where many experienced major congenital abnormalities, and a second from elicited abortions for social reasons; (3) Results: While the occurrence of major abnormalities did not seem to affect the way asymmetry decreased with age, differences between the two populations were observed; and (4) Conclusions: In one population where fetuses and young infants deceased of natural causes, asymmetry decreased rapidly until 20 weeks of age and then leveled off. Over the entire timespan (week 15–49), individuals with major congenital abnormalities showed higher FA, suggesting that developmental perturbations increase FA rapidly. In the second, more normal population with abortions solicited for social reasons, the decrease in asymmetry with age was less profound and not statistically significant, calling for further research toward understanding regional differences. View Full-Text
Keywords: developmental instability (DI); fluctuating asymmetry (FA); human fetuses and infants; age; congenital abnormalities developmental instability (DI); fluctuating asymmetry (FA); human fetuses and infants; age; congenital abnormalities
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Dongen, S.V.; Broek, C.T.; Bots, J.; Galis, F. Changes of Fluctuating Asymmetry with Age in Human Fetuses and Young Infants. Symmetry 2017, 9, 44.

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