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

  • Helena Westerdahl
Publishing year: 2004
Language: English
Pages: 2465-2470
Publication/Series: Molecular Ecology
Volume: 13
Issue: 8
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell

Abstract english

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.


  • Biological Sciences


  • Long-term study of great reed warblers
  • Molecular Ecology and Evolution Lab
  • ISSN: 0962-1083
Helena Westerdahl
E-mail: helena [dot] westerdahl [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

Senior lecturer


+46 46 222 36 69



Research group

Molecular Ecology and Evolution Lab


Doctoral students and postdocs

Research fellows


Luz Garcia-Longoria

PhD students, main supervisor

Samantha Mellinger

PhD students, assistant supervisor

Gustaf Ekelund Ugge

Helena Westerdahl w house sparrow