TitleMate choice for major histocompatibility complex complementarity in a strictly monogamous bird, the grey partridge (Perdix perdix)
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsRymešová, D, Králová, T, Proměrová, M, Bryja, J, Tomášek, O, Svobodová, J, Šmilauer, P, Šálek, M, Albrecht, T
JournalFrontiers in Zoology
KeywordsGrey partridge; Mate choice; MHC genes; Ornaments; Sexual selection; Social monogamy; Inbreeding avoidance

Background: Sexual selection has been hypothesised as favouring mate choice resulting in production of viable offspring with genotypes providing high pathogen resistance. Specific pathogen recognition is mediated by genes of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) encoding proteins fundamental for adaptive immune response in jawed vertebrates. MHC genes may also play a role in odour-based individual recognition and mate choice, aimed at avoiding inbreeding. MHC genes are known to be involved in mate choice in a number of species, with 'good genes' (absolute criteria) and 'complementary genes' (self-referential criteria) being used to explain MHC-based mating. Here, we focus on the effect of morphological traits and variation and genetic similarity between individuals in MHC class IIB (MHCIIB) exon 2 on mating in a free-living population of a monogamous bird, the grey partridge.
Results: We found no evidence for absolute mate choice criteria as regards grey partridge MHCIIB genotypes, i.e., number and occurrence of amino acid variants, though red chroma of the spot behind eyes was positively associated with male pairing success. On the other hand, mate choice at MHCIIB was based on relative criteria as females preferentially paired with more dissimilar males having a lower number of shared amino acid variants. This observation supports the 'inbreeding avoidance' and 'complementary genes' hypotheses.
Conclusions: Our study provides one of the first pieces of evidence for MHC-based mate choice for genetic complementarity in a strictly monogamous bird. The statistical approach employed can be recommended for testing mating preferences in cases where availability of potential mates (recorded with an appropriate method such as radiotracking) shows considerable temporal variation. Additional genetic analyses using neutral markers may detect whether MHC-based mate choice for complementarity emerges as a by-product of general inbreeding avoidance in grey partridges.