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Nat Genet. 2003 Sep;35(1):103-6. Epub 2003 Aug 24.

Genetic similarity and quality interact in mate choice decisions by female mice.

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  • 1Evolution & Behaviour Research Group, School of Biology, University of Newcastle, Framlington Place, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE1 4HH, UK.


Females express mate preferences for genetically dissimilar males, especially with respect to the major histocompatibility complex, MHC, and for males whose sexually selected signals indicate high genetic quality. The balance of selection pressure on each trait will depend on how females weight these desirable qualities under different conditions, but this has not been tested empirically. Here we show in mice that although MHC dissimilarity and a 'good genes' indicator (investment in scent-marking) both have a role in determining female preference, their relative influence can vary depending on the degree of variability in each trait among available males. Such interactions between condition-dependent and disassortative mate choice criteria suggest a mechanism by which female choice can contribute to maintenance of additive genetic variance in both the MHC and condition-dependent traits, even under consistent directional selection.

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