MHC genes play a fundamental role in immune recognition of pathogens and parasites. Therefore, females may increase offspring heterozygosity and genetic diversity by selecting males with genetically compatible or heterozygous MHC. In birds, several studies suggest that MHC genes play a role in mate choice, and recent evidence suggests that olfaction may play a role in the MHC-II discrimination. However, whether olfaction is involved in MHC-I discrimination in birds remains unknown. Previous studies indicate that house sparrow females with low allelic diversity prefer males with higher diversity in MHC-I alleles. Here, we directly explored whether female and male house sparrows (Passer domesticus) could estimate by scent MHC-I diversity and/or dissimilarity of potential partners. Our results show that neither females nor males exhibit a preference related to MHC-I diversity or dissimilarity of potential partners, suggesting that MHC-I is not detected through olfaction. Further studies are needed to understand the mechanisms responsible for mate discrimination based on MHC-I in birds.
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