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Mate choice for major histocompatibility complex genetic divergence as a bet-hedging strategy in the Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar)

Evans, Melissa L., Dionne, Mélanie, Miller, Kristina M., Bernatchez, Louis
Proceedings 2012 v.279 no.1727 pp. 379-386
Salmo salar, adults, disease resistance, genetic variation, loci, major histocompatibility complex, mating behavior, microsatellite repeats, natural selection, progeny, temporal variation, vertebrates, viability, Canada
Major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-dependent mating preferences have been observed across vertebrate taxa and these preferences are expected to promote offspring disease resistance and ultimately, viability. However, little empirical evidence linking MHC-dependent mate choice and fitness is available, particularly in wild populations. Here, we explore the adaptive potential of previously observed patterns of MHC-dependent mate choice in a wild population of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) in Québec, Canada, by examining the relationship between MHC genetic variation and adult reproductive success and offspring survival over 3 years of study. While Atlantic salmon choose their mates in order to increase MHC diversity in offspring, adult reproductive success was in fact maximized between pairs exhibiting an intermediate level of MHC dissimilarity. Moreover, patterns of offspring survival between years 0+ and 1+, and 1+ and 2+ and population genetic structure at the MHC locus relative to microsatellite loci indicate that strong temporal variation in selection is likely to be operating on the MHC. We interpret MHC-dependent mate choice for diversity as a likely bet-hedging strategy that maximizes parental fitness in the face of temporally variable and unpredictable natural selection pressures.