Relationships Between Developmental Stability and Fitness: Application for Conservation Biology
One of the most difficult tasks in conservation biology is identifying populations subject to stress before such stress has a detrimental impact on the population, thus allowing conservation and remedial action to be undertaken. Measuring fitness (fecundity, survival, etc.) changes directly is often difficult, expensive, or impractical. The ability of an organism to buffer its development against disturbances (developmental stability) is often considered an integral component of an individual's fitness. Data are presented from a number of studies that establish a clear relationship between developmental stability and fitness in response to both genetic and environmental stress. Consequently, I suggest that developmental stability may be used as a surrogate for more direct fitness estimation for use in conservation biology and biomonitoring programs and that is has widespread application as an early warning system for monitoring the effect of genetic and environmental stress on natural populations.