No relationship between vertebral column shifts and limb fluctuating asymmetry in human foetuses

Clara M.A. ten Broek, Jessica Bots, Marianna Bugiani, Frietson Galis, Stefan Van Dongen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Disturbance from the normal developmental trajectory of a trait during growth the so-called developmental instability-can be observed morphologically through phenodeviants and subtle deviations from perfect symmetry (fluctuating asymmetry). This study investigates the relationship between phenodeviance in the human vertebral column (as a result of axial patterning defects) and limb fluctuating asymmetry. Since both types of markers of developmental instability have been found associated with congenital abnormalities in humans, we anticipate a relationship between them if the concept of developmental instability, measured through either phenodeviants or asymmetry, would reflect an organism-wide process. Yet we did not find any support for this hypothesis. We argue that the vast differences in the developmental processes involved in both systems renders these two markers of developmental instability unrelated, in spite of their associations with other congenital abnormalities. Our results thus contribute to the growing awareness that developmental instability is not an organism-wide property.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere3359
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Birth defects
  • Cervical rib
  • Congenital abnormalities
  • Developmental instability
  • Fluctuating asymmetry
  • Marker
  • Patterning deffects
  • Vertebral column shifts

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