Special Issue "Fluctuating asymmetry: A predictor of human life history outcomes"

A special issue of Symmetry (ISSN 2073-8994). This special issue belongs to the section "Biology and Symmetry/Asymmetry".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 June 2022) | Viewed by 21088

Special Issue Editor

Dr. William Brown
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Faculty of Creative Arts, Technologies & Science, University of Bedfordshire, Luton, UK
Interests: genomic imprinting; cooperation; developmental instability

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Since the late Leigh Van Valen’s (1962) classic work “The Study of Fluctuating Asymmetry” there has been relatively consistent interest across multiple disciplines (despite measurement controversies) in whether or not subtle fluctuating asymmetries (FAs) reflect the latent variable of developmental instability. Early work appeared to validate the idea, as subtle FAs predicted life history outcomes (e.g., survival, parasite load and reproductive success) in humans and other animals. However, over time we saw the emergence of null results, opposite direction results and a variety of measurement issues. An update is needed regarding where we are now with the study of fluctuating asymmetry. It is our general view that subtle FAs are a rough and weak measure of underlying developmental instability at a given moment of time (note that the time lag for environmental or genetic insults to manifest themselves in measurable FAs is unknown and may vary according to a species’ genetic background, history and ecology). Nonetheless, for bilateral organisms there is an enormous conceptual power in the underlying logic that subtle departures from perfect symmetry are a sensitive barometer of epigenetic stress. This Special Issue explores the measurement and life history correlates of subtle FAs. Please submit your original research in humans or closely related species exploring the links between fluctuating asymmetry, its measurement and life outcomes for rigorous and fair peer-review. The first five accepted articles will have their open access fees waived.    

Respectfully yours,

Dr. William Brown
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Developmental instability
  • Fluctuating asymmetry
  • Geometric morphometrics
  • Sexual selection
  • Natural selection

Published Papers (3 papers)

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Research

Article
Variation and Correlations in Departures from Symmetry of Brain Torque, Humeral Morphology and Handedness in an Archaeological Sample of Homo sapiens
Symmetry 2020, 12(3), 432; https://doi.org/10.3390/sym12030432 - 07 Mar 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 3046
Abstract
The anatomical asymmetries of the human brain are the subject of a great deal of scientific interest because of their links with handedness and lateralized cognitive functions. Information about lateralization in humans is also available from the post-cranial skeleton, particularly the arm bones, [...] Read more.
The anatomical asymmetries of the human brain are the subject of a great deal of scientific interest because of their links with handedness and lateralized cognitive functions. Information about lateralization in humans is also available from the post-cranial skeleton, particularly the arm bones, in which differences in size and shape are related to hand/arm preference. Our objective here is to characterize the possible correlations between the endocranial and post-cranial asymmetries of an archaeological sample. This, in turn, will allow us to try to identify and interpret prospective functional traits in the archaeological and fossil records. We observe that directional asymmetry (DA) is present both for some endocranial and humeral traits because of brain lateralization and lateralized behaviors, while patterns of fluctuating asymmetry (FA) vary. The combined study of these anatomical elements and of their asymmetries can shed light on the ways in which the body responds to dependent asymmetrical stimuli across biologically independent anatomical areas. Variations in FA are, in this context, indicators of differences in answers to lateralized factors. Humeri tend to show a much larger range of variation than the endocast. We show that important but complex information may be extracted from the combined study of the endocast and the arms in an archaeological sample of Homo sapiens. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Fluctuating asymmetry: A predictor of human life history outcomes)
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Article
The Face of Early Cognitive Decline? Shape and Asymmetry Predict Choice Reaction Time Independent of Age, Diet or Exercise
Symmetry 2019, 11(11), 1364; https://doi.org/10.3390/sym11111364 - 03 Nov 2019
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 3364
Abstract
Slower reaction time is a measure of cognitive decline and can occur as early as 24 years of age. We are interested if developmental stability predicts cognitive performance independent of age and lifestyle (e.g., diet and exercise). Developmental stability is the latent capacity [...] Read more.
Slower reaction time is a measure of cognitive decline and can occur as early as 24 years of age. We are interested if developmental stability predicts cognitive performance independent of age and lifestyle (e.g., diet and exercise). Developmental stability is the latent capacity to buffer ontogenetic stressors and is measured by low fluctuating asymmetry (FA). FA is random—with respect to the largest side—departures from perfect morphological symmetry. The degree of asymmetry has been associated with physical fitness, morbidity, and mortality in many species, including humans. We expected that low FA (independent of age, diet and exercise) will predict faster choice reaction time (i.e., correct keyboard responses to stimuli appearing in a random location on a computer monitor). Eighty-eight university students self-reported their fish product consumption, exercise, had their faces 3D scanned and cognitive performance measured. Unexpectedly, increased fish product consumption was associated with worsened choice reaction time. Facial asymmetry and multiple face shape variation parameters predicted slower choice reaction time independent of sex, age, diet or exercise. Future work should develop longitudinal interventions to minimize early cognitive decline among vulnerable people (e.g., those who have experienced ontogenetic stressors affecting optimal neurocognitive development). Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Fluctuating asymmetry: A predictor of human life history outcomes)
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Article
Biological Bases of Beauty Revisited: The Effect of Symmetry, Averageness, and Sexual Dimorphism on Female Facial Attractiveness
Symmetry 2019, 11(2), 279; https://doi.org/10.3390/sym11020279 - 21 Feb 2019
Cited by 40 | Viewed by 14060
Abstract
The factors influencing human female facial attractiveness—symmetry, averageness, and sexual dimorphism—have been extensively studied. However, recent studies, using improved methodologies, have called into question their evolutionary utility and links with life history. The current studies use a range of approaches to quantify how [...] Read more.
The factors influencing human female facial attractiveness—symmetry, averageness, and sexual dimorphism—have been extensively studied. However, recent studies, using improved methodologies, have called into question their evolutionary utility and links with life history. The current studies use a range of approaches to quantify how important these factors actually are in perceiving attractiveness, through the use of novel statistical analyses and by addressing methodological weaknesses in the literature. Study One examines how manipulations of symmetry, averageness, femininity, and masculinity affect attractiveness using a two-alternative forced choice task, finding that increased masculinity and also femininity decrease attractiveness, compared to unmanipulated faces. Symmetry and averageness yielded a small and large effect, respectively. Study Two utilises a naturalistic ratings paradigm, finding similar effects of averageness and masculinity as Study One but no effects of symmetry and femininity on attractiveness. Study Three applies geometric face measurements of the factors and a random forest machine learning algorithm to predict perceived attractiveness, finding that shape averageness, dimorphism, and skin texture symmetry are useful features capable of relatively accurate predictions, while shape symmetry is uninformative. However, the factors do not explain as much variance in attractiveness as the literature suggests. The implications for future research on attractiveness are discussed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Fluctuating asymmetry: A predictor of human life history outcomes)
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