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Data from: Birdsong signals individual diversity at the major histocompatibility complex

Cite this dataset

Slade, Joel W.G.; Watson, Matthew J.; MacDougall-Shackleton, Elizabeth A.; Slade, J. W. G. (2017). Data from: Birdsong signals individual diversity at the major histocompatibility complex [Dataset]. Dryad.


The major histocompatibility complex (MHC) plays a key role in vertebrate immunity, and pathogen-mediated selection often favours certain allelic combinations. Assessing potential mates' MHC profiles may provide receivers with genetic benefits (identifying MHC-compatible mates and producing optimally diverse offspring) and/or material benefits (identifying optimally diverse mates capable of high parental investment). Oscine songbirds learn songs during early life, such that song repertoire content can reflect population of origin while song complexity can reflect early life condition. Thus birdsong may advertise the singer's genetic dissimilarity to others in the population (and, presumably, compatibility with potential mates), or individual genetic diversity (and thus condition-dependent material benefits). We tested whether song repertoire content and/or complexity signal MHC class IIβ dissimilarity and/or diversity in male song sparrows (Melospiza melodia). Pairwise dissimilarity in repertoire content did not predict MHC dissimilarity between males, suggesting that locally rare songs do not signal rare MHC profiles. Thus, geographical variation in song may not facilitate MHC-mediated inbreeding or outbreeding. Larger repertoires were associated with intermediate MHC diversity, suggesting intermediate rather than maximal MHC diversity is optimal. This could reflect trade-offs between resisting infection and autoimmune disorders. Song complexity may advertise optimal MHC diversity, a trait affecting disease resistance and capacity for parental care.

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