It has been suggested that minor, fluctuating differences in size of bilateral traits could validly indicate individual differences in development stability. One plausible reason for instability to occur could be lowered population size, which has been suggested to increase fluctuating asymmetry due to inbreeding, for example. We measured seven wing asymmetries of three Coenonympha butterfly species in central Sweden. One species is abundant (C. pamphilus), one rather common (C. arcania), and one rare (C. hero). We expected that if fluctuating asymmetry is a reliable indicator of population quality and thus a useful tool for conservation purposes, the most abundant species should show lowest asymmetry and the most endangered, the highest. Contrary to our expectations, the highest wing asymmetry was found in the relatively common species C. arcania and the most abundant and rare species did not show significant differences in levels of wing asymmetry. Our results obtained from three Coenonympha species hence suggest that the use of fluctuating asymmetry as an indicator of population conservation status may be misleading. Possible increase in asymmetry of small and/or isolated populations of butterflies may be masked by local differences in environmental conditions that could have high impact on bilateral development as well.
Windig, J. J., Rintamaki, P. T., Cassel, A., & Nylin, S. (2000). How useful is fluctuating asymmetry in conservation biology: asymmetry in rare and abundant Coenonympha butterflies. Journal of Insect Conservation, 4(4), 253-261. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1011332401156