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Symmetry 2017, 9(4), 51; doi:10.3390/sym9040051

Developmental Origins of Limb Developmental Instability in Human Fetuses: Many Abnormalities Make the Difference

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
3
Department of Pathology, VU University Medical Center, De Boelelaan 1117, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands
*
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: John H. Graham
Received: 16 February 2017 / Revised: 20 March 2017 / Accepted: 23 March 2017 / Published: 28 March 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Symmetry in Human Evolutionary Biology)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [718 KB, uploaded 30 March 2017]   |  

Abstract

Fluctuating asymmetry (FA) is the small random deviation from perfect symmetry in bilateral traits and is often used to assess developmental instability (DI) experienced by organisms. In this study, with a unique dataset of 1389 deceased human fetuses, we investigated the relationship between abnormal development and human limb FA in different ways, using a more fundamental approach than usually done. We studied whether there is an underlying developmental basis of DI, as measured by FA, by investigating, first, whether limb FA can be attributed to developmental abnormalities associated with specific organ systems, germ layers or patterning processes, and second, whether limb FA increases with increasing number of developmental abnormalities either gradually, or in a threshold-like fashion. Limb FA was found to increase in fetuses with cardiovascular and nervous system abnormalities. Fetuses with ectoderm-derived abnormalities were also found to have significantly higher limb FA, but no other germ layers were found to be associated. We found no significant correlation between specific developmental processes, such as neural crest development, segmentation, midline and left-right patterning and limb FA. Although only some congenital abnormalities were correlated with limb FA, our results do suggest that limb FA increases when an increasing number of organ systems, germ layers or developmental pathways are disrupted. Therefore, we conclude that limb FA is mainly a good indicator for DI in the case of particularly severe perturbations of development and that FA does not reflect the subtler deviations from developmental stability. View Full-Text
Keywords: congenital abnormalities; developmental instability; disturbed development; fluctuating asymmetry; health; stress congenital abnormalities; developmental instability; disturbed development; fluctuating asymmetry; health; stress
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Broek, C.M.A.; Bots, J.; Bugiani, M.; Galis, F.; Dongen, S. Developmental Origins of Limb Developmental Instability in Human Fetuses: Many Abnormalities Make the Difference. Symmetry 2017, 9, 51.

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