No evidence of an MHC-based female mating preference in great reed warblers



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    1. Department of Animal Ecology, Ecology Building, Lund University, S-223 62 Lund, Sweden
      Helena Westerdahl. Fax: + 46 46 222 47 16, E-mail:
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Helena Westerdahl. Fax: + 46 46 222 47 16, E-mail:


Female mate-choice based on genetic compatibility is an area of growing interest. The major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes are likely candidates for such mate-choice since these highly polymorphic genes may both increase offspring viability and also provide direct cues for mate-choice. In great reed warblers, females actively choose a breeding partner out of a handful of males that they visit and evaluate; thus, female preference for compatible or heterozygous MHC genes could have evolved. Here, I investigate whether great reed warbler females preferentially mate with males with dissimilar MHC class I alleles or with males that are heterozygous at MHC class I. Despite favourable conditions, a thorough screening method and a large sample size, there was no evidence of an MHC-based female mating preference based on either genetic compatibility or heterozygosity in this population. Power analyses of the data sets revealed that relatively small differences (15% and 8%, respectively) between true and random pairs should have been detected.