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Odour signals major histocompatibility complex genotype in an Old World monkey.

Setchell, J.M. and Vaglio, S. and Abbott, K.M. and Moggi-Cecchi, J. and Boscaro, F. and Pieraccini, G. and Knapp, L.A. (2011) 'Odour signals major histocompatibility complex genotype in an Old World monkey.', Proceedings of the Royal Society series B : biological sciences., 278 (1703). pp. 274-280.


The major histocompatibility complex (MHC) is an extraordinarily diverse cluster of genes that play a key role in the immune system. MHC gene products are also found in various body secretions, leading to the suggestion that MHC genotypes are linked to unique individual odourtypes that animals use to assess the suitability of other individuals as potential mates or social partners. We investigated the relationship between chemical odour profiles and genotype in a large, naturally reproducing population of mandrills, using gas chromatography–mass spectrometry and MHC genotyping. Odour profiles were not linked to the possession of particular MHC supertypes. Sex influenced some measures of odour diversity and dominance rank influenced some measures of odour diversity in males, but not in females. Odour similarity was strongly related to similarity at the MHC, and, in some cases, to pedigree relatedness. Our results suggest that odour provides both a cue of individual genetic quality and information against which the receiver can compare its own genotype to assess genetic similarity. These findings provide a potential mechanism underlying mate choice for genetic diversity and MHC similarity as well as kin selection.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:Semiochemicals, Olfaction, MHC odourtype, Mate choice, Honest signalling, Kin recognition.
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Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:17 April 2014
Date of first online publication:January 2011
Date first made open access:No date available

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