Female house mice avoid fertilization bythaplotype incompatible males in a mate choice experiment

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Abstract

The t haplotype in house mice is a well-known selfish genetic element with detrimental, nonadditive fitness consequences to its carriers: recessive lethal mutations cause t/t homozygotes to perish in utero. Given the severe genetic incompatibility imposed by the t haplotype, we predict females to avoid fertilization by t haplotype incompatible males. Indeed, some of the strongest evidence for compatibility mate choice is related to the t haplotype in house mice. However, all previous evidence for compatibility mate choice in this system is based on olfactory preference. It is so far unknown how general these preferences are and whether they are relevant in an actual mating context. Here, we assess female compatibility mate choice related to t haplotypes in a setting that – for the first time – allowed females to directly interact and mate with males. This approach enabled us to analyse female behaviour during the testing period, and the resulting paternity success and fitness consequences of a given choice. We show that genetic incompatibilities arising from the t haplotype had severe indirect fitness consequences and t females avoided fertilization by t incompatible males. The results are inconclusive whether this avoidance of t fertilization by t females was caused by pre- or post-copulatory processes.

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