Social and Extra-Pair Mating in Relation to Major Histocompatibility Complex Variation in Common Yellowthroats

Document Type


Publication Date



Females are thought to gain better-quality genes for their offspring by mating with particular males. Genes of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) play a critical role in adaptive immunity, and several studies have examined female mate choice in relation to MHC variation. In common yellowthroats, females prefer males that have larger black facial masks, an ornament associated with MHC variation, immune function and condition. Here we also tested whether mating patterns are directly correlated with MHC diversity or similarity. Using pyrosequencing, we found that the presence of extra-pair young in the brood was not related to male MHC diversity or similarity between the female and her within-pair mate. Furthermore, extra-pair sires did not differ in overall diversity from males they cuckolded, or in their similarity to the female. MHC diversity is extremely high in this species, and it may limit the ability of females to assess MHC variation in males. Thus, mating may be based on ornaments, such as mask size, which are better indicators of overall male health and genetic quality.

Published In

Proceedings of the Royal Society, London, Series B: Biological Sciences