Several hypotheses predict that the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) drives mating preference in females. Olfactory, colour or morphological traits are often found as reliable signals of the MHC profile, but the role of avian song mediating MHC-based female choice remains largely unexplored. We investigated the relationship between several MHC and acoustic features in the collared flycatcher (Ficedula albicollis), a European passerine with complex songs. We screened a fragment of the class IIB second exon of the MHC molecule, of which individuals harbour 4–15 alleles, while considerable sequence diversity is maintained at the population level. To make statistical inferences from a large number of comparisons, we adopted both null-hypothesis testing and effect size framework in combination with randomization procedures. After controlling for potential confounding factors, neither MHC allelic diversity nor the presence of particular alleles was associated remarkably with the investigated qualitative and quantitative song traits. Furthermore, genetic similarity among males based on MHC sequences was not reflected by the similarity in their song based on syllable content. Overall, these results suggest that the relationship between features of song and the allelic composition and diversity of MHC is not strong in the studied species. However, a biologically motivated analysis revealed that individuals that harbour an MHC allele that impairs survival perform songs with broader frequency range. This finding suggests that certain aspects of the song may bear reliable information concerning the MHC profile of the individuals, which can be used by females to optimize mate choice.
- Hamilton and Zuk hypothesis
- Major histocompatibility complex
- Parasite-mediated sexual selection
- Repertoire size
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics