Several genetic factors are assumed to influence developmental instability (DI). One is the level of heterozygosity, with higher levels often being associated with decreased DI; another is genetic incompatibility in hybrids, which in several cases has been shown to increase DI. The genus Bacillus includes species which have both amphigonic heterozygous reproducing populations and homozygous parthenogenetic reproducing populations (B. rossius rossius and B. r. redtenbacheri). Furthermore, Bacillus includes hybrid parthenogenetic species, which have very high levels of almost fixed heterozygosities (B. atticus, B. whitei, B. lynceorum). We investigated the phenotypic variance (2p) and the impact of hybridization and level of heterozygosity on DI in females from these populations and species of Bacillus. DI was estimated as fluctuating asymmetry (FA) for three bilateral traits: the labial palpus, the maxillary palpus and the antenna. For the labial palpus and maxillary palpus we found, in general, a lower level of DI in the amphigonic females compared with parthenogenetic counterparts from the same species and with parthenogenetic females from the three hybrid species. A higher DI of the antenna was found in the hybrid species when compared with both parthenogenetic and amphigonic populations of the nonhybrid species, suggesting that the genes controlling antenna development are located on the sex chromosomes. The development of the investigated bilateral characters in the hybrid species seemed to be affected more by factors relating to genetic incompatibilities as a consequence of hybridization than by the stabilizing force of increased heterozygosity. Only few differences in 2p were observed, supporting the possibility that the observed differences in DI are related mainly to internal genetic factors. © 2006 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2006, 87, 249–259.
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