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Food stress, fluctuating asymmetry and reproductive performance in the gryllid crickets Gryllus bimaculatus and Gryllodes sigillatus

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While associations between sexual selection, developmental stress and fluctuating asymmetry (FA) remain controversial, this does not necessarily undermine the more general hypothesis that FA reflects developmental instability and functional competence. This applies as much to reproductive processes as to any other. If this is the case, however, we should expect FA and measures of performance to covary under conditions of developmental stress. Using an established association between morphometric FA and reproductive performance in the gryllid crickets Gryllus bimaculatus and Gryllodes sigillatus, we looked at the effect of food stress on covariation between FA and measures of performance (vigour of locomotion and interaction, mating speed, sperm transfer, egg production and offspring weight). The results showed a clear effect of food treatment in males and females of both species, with composite measures reflecting greater FA and reduced performance being greatest when crickets were reared on impoverished food. Inspection of independent means suggested FA may have been most influenced by a relaxation of food stress under high quality feeding conditions, while reproductive performance was more susceptible to the reduction in food quality under low quality conditions.

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