Major histocompatibility complex and mate choice in the polygynous primate: the Sichuan snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus roxellana)

Authors

  • Banghe YANG,

    1. Key Lab of Animal Ecology and Conservation Biology, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
    2. Graduate School of the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
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    • These authors contributed equally to this work.

  • Baoping REN,

    1. Key Lab of Animal Ecology and Conservation Biology, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
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    • These authors contributed equally to this work.

  • Zuofu XIANG,

    1. College of Life Science and Technology, Central South University of Forestry and Technology, Changsha, China
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  • Jingyuan YANG,

    1. Hubei Province Key Laboratory of Conservation Biology of Shennongjia Golden Monkey, China
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  • Hui YAO,

    1. Hubei Province Key Laboratory of Conservation Biology of Shennongjia Golden Monkey, China
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  • Paul A. GARBER,

    1. Department of Anthropology Program in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Illinois, Urbana, USA
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  • Ming LI

    Corresponding author
    1. Key Lab of Animal Ecology and Conservation Biology, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
    • Correspondence: Ming Li, Key Lab of Animal Ecology and Conservation Biology, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 1 Beichen West Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing 100101, China. Email: lim@ioz.ac.cn

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Abstract

The highly polymorphic genes within the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) not only play a major role in immunity resistance, but also seem to provide hints for mate choice in some animal populations. In the present study we investigated MHC-related mate choice in a small natural population (group size 40–55 individuals) of a polygynous primate, the Sichuan snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus roxellana). We found that there was no evidence either for MHC-disassortative mating, or for females to mate with males based on MHC heterozygosity or specific alleles. Nevertheless, of the 11 alleles identified, we found that the frequencies of 2 alleles, Rhro-DRB2 (P < 0.01) and Rhro-DRB5 (P < 0.05) were higher in offspring than in their parents. These findings suggest that MHC-DRB in this population of R. roxellana is unlikely to be associated with mating preferences. Limited female opportunities for mate choice are likely due, in part, to the harem breeding structure present in R. roxellana, and the relatively small number of resident adult males in our study band (N = 4–6). In addition, we suggest that differences in the frequency of particular alleles across generations may be linked to parasite resistance in a fluctuating environment; however, confirmation of this finding requires further study.

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