Inferring developmental modularity from morphological integration: Analysis of individual variation and asymmetry in bumblebee wings

C. P. Klingenberg, A. V. Badyaev, S. M. Sowry, N. J. Beckwith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

193 Scopus citations


Organisms are built from distinct modules, which are internally coherent but flexible in their relationships among one another. We examined morphological variation within and between two candidate modules: the fore- and hindwings of bumblebees (Hymenoptera: Apidae: Bombus empatiens). We used the techniques of geometric morphometrics (Procrustes superimposition) to analyze the variation of landmark configurations in fore- and hindwings. Regression was used to correct for size-related shape variation (allometry). Principal component analysis revealed patterns of variation that were remarkably similar for individual variation and fluctuating asymmetry (FA). Because covariation of FA among parts must be due to direct transmission of the developmental perturbations causing FA, this agreement of patterns suggests that much of individual variation is also due to direct developmental interactions within each developing wing. Moreover, partial least squares analysis indicated that the patterns of shape covariation between fore- and hindwings were nearly the same as the patterns of within-wing variation. Shape covariation of FA was only found in bees that had been reared under elevated CO2 concentration but not in bees from the control treatment, suggesting that the mechanisms of developmental interactions between fore- and hindwings are related to gas exchange. We conclude that the fore- and hindwings are developmental modules that maintain internal coherence through direct developmental interactions and are connected to each other only by relatively few links that use the system of interactions within modules.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11-23
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001


  • Allometry
  • Developmental modules
  • Fluctuating asymmetry
  • Geometric morphometrics
  • Morphological integration
  • Shape

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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