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Department of Anthropology

Academic Staff

Publication details for Professor Jo Setchell

Setchell, J.M. & Huchard, E. (2010). The hidden benefits of sex: Evidence for MHC-associated mate choice in primate societies. BioEssays 32(11): 940-948.

Author(s) from Durham


Major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-associated mate choice is thought to give offspring a fitness advantage through disease resistance. Primates offer a unique opportunity to understand MHC-associated mate choice within our own zoological order, while their social diversity provides an exceptional setting to examine the genetic determinants and consequences of mate choice in animal societies. Although mate choice is constrained by social context, increasing evidence shows that MHC-dependent mate choice occurs across the order in a variety of socio-sexual systems and favours mates with dissimilar, diverse or specific genotypes non-exclusively. Recent research has also identified phenotypic indicators of MHC quality. Moreover, novel findings rehabilitate the importance of olfactory cues in signalling MHC genes and influencing primate mating decisions. These findings underline the importance to females of selecting a sexual partner of high genetic quality, as well as the generality of the role of MHC genes in sexual selection.