Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Can MHC-assortative partner choice promote offspring diversity? A new combination of MHC-dependent behaviours among sexes in a highly successful invasive mammal.

2017 Apr;26(8):2392-2404. doi: 10.1111/mec.14035. Epub 2017 Mar 6.

Author information

Institute of Evolutionary Ecology and Conservation Genomics, University of Ulm, Albert-Einstein-Allee 11, 89069, Ulm, Germany.
Institute of Forest Botany and Forest Zoology, Technical University of Dresden, Pienner Stra├če 7, 01737, Tharandt, Germany.


Sexual selection involving genetically disassortative mate choice is one of several evolutionary processes that can maintain or enhance population genetic variability. Examples of reproductive systems in which choosers (generally females) select mates depending on their major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes have been reported for several vertebrate species. Notably, the role of MHC-dependent choice not in mating contexts, but in other kinds of social interactions such as in the establishment of complex social systems, has not yet drawn significant scientific interest and is virtually absent from the literature. We have investigated male and female MHC-dependent choice in an invasive population of North American raccoons (Procyon lotor) in Germany. Both male and female raccoons rely on olfaction for individual recognition. Males have an unusually complex social system in which older individuals choose unrelated younger ones to form stable male coalitions that defend territories and a monopoly over females. We have confirmed that females perform MHC-disassortative mate choice and that this behaviour fosters genetic diversity of offspring. We have also observed that males build coalitions by choosing male partners depending on their MHC, but in an assortative manner. This is the first observation of antagonistic MHC-dependent behaviours among sexes. We show that this is the only combination of MHC-dependent partner choice that leads to outbreeding. In the case of introduced raccoons, such behaviours can act together to promote the invasive potential of the species by increasing its adaptive genetic divergence.


MHC ; Procyon lotor ; female mate choice; invasion biology; male coalitions