Some years ago, I became very interested in a phenomenon known as fluctuating asymmetry (or FA). These were seen as small random deviations from perfect bilateral symmetry in an organism’s traits. One of my Ph.D. students at the time, Brian Leung, was very interested in whether such deviations could be used to measure environmental stress to organisms. His work showed that FA-stress and FA-fitness relations were often present, but they were weak and highly heterogeneous across species. FA theory and empiricism could be an exciting topic for science historians in a decade or two. I still think the concepts surrounding FA generation and its relation to fitness and stress are intriguing. But for know my thoughts on asymmetry are less definite. The painting above, by Paul Klee, is titled Senecio (1922).
Professor & student