Fluctuating asymmetry as an animal welfare indicator - A review of methodology and validity
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Fluctuating asymmetry (FA) probably reflects an animals ability to cope with the sum of challenges during its growing period and, thus, is a potential welfare indicator. In this review, we investigate the evidence of associations between FA and other welfare indicators measured at the level of the individual and of effects of welfare-relevant environmental conditions on FA in populations. Firstly, a checklist for the proper measurement and analysis of FA was drafted and used to evaluate the methodological quality of the various studies. In almost all studies, the relationship between FA and welfare to be prevailingly in the expected direction was found. FA is a promising measure of animal welfare, despite a great number of open questions. The considerable potential of FA as a welfare indicator makes it worthwhile to pursue more intensely validation studies as well as applied studies.
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