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Am Nat. 1998 Feb;151(2):174-92. doi: 10.1086/286110.

Bilateral symmetry and sexual selection: a meta-analysis.

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Laboratoire d'Ecologie, CNRS URA 258, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Bât. A, 7ème étage, 7 quai St. Bernard, Case 237, F-75252 Paris Cedex 5, France.


A considerable body of primary research has accumulated over the last 10 yr testing the relationship between developmental instability in the form of fluctuating asymmetry and performance of individuals in mating success itself or sexual attractiveness. This research comprises 146 samples from 65 studies of 42 species of four major taxa. We present the results of a meta-analysis of these studies, which demonstrates that there is indeed an overall significant, moderate negative relationship: for studies, the overall mean Pearson's r or effect size = -.42, P <.0005; for species, the overall mean r = -.34, .01 < P < .025. Based on calculated fail-safe numbers, the effect-size estimates are highly robust against any publication or reporting bias that may exist. There is considerable evidence that the magnitude of the negative correlation between fluctuating asymmetry and success related to sexual selection is greater for males than for females, when a secondary sexual trait rather than an ordinary trait is studied, with experimentation compared with observation, and for traits not involved with mobility compared with traits affecting mobility. There is also limited evidence that higher taxa may differ in effect size and that intensity of sexual selection negatively correlates with effect size.


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