Monkeys choose mating partners with different genes: Study

Last Updated: Wednesday, November 25, 2009 - 21:30

London: Monkeys choose mating partners with genes different from their own to guarantee healthy and strong offspring, a new study has claimed.

A team of researcher from UK and Africa analysed blood
samples and reproduction patterns of around 200 mandrills, a
species closely related to humans, living in Gabon in Central
Africa.

They observed that female mandrills reproduced most with
those males whose genes were complementary to their own.

Presuming that the females use smell to select suitable
mating partner for themselves, the scientists said, "monkeys
know their own body smell, which is partly determined by their
genes".

Male mandrills have a scent-gland on their chest, which
they rub vigorously against trees to advertise their presence
to females.

"The females sniff out the males whose body odour is
different giving an indication that their genetic make up is
likely to be unlike theirs," the team assumed, but made it
clear that they were still trying to determine mandrill
cent-marks.

"This is an important advance in our knowledge of how mate
selection works in monkeys. We now need to dig deeper and
establish how they do this," lead author Jo Setchell from
Durham University`s Anthropology Department said in a report
in Journal of Evolutionary Biology.

Selective fertilisation could be another method adopted
by female mandrills to `choose` their mates, researchers
speculate.

"Alternatively, it could well be that the female has a
sophisticated way of somehow rejecting and accepting
fertilisation depending on the genetic makeup of the sperm.
This might help to explain why female primates go out of their
way to mate with as many males as possible," Setchell said.

A female mandrill mates with a number of males and
researchers believe that her body rejects sperm from males
with a similar genetic makeup and `picks` those with different
genes.

"These results are very exciting and this is the first
time that selection for genetic compatibility has been
demonstrated in a species which is quite closely related to
humans. So our results support the idea that humans might
choose genetically compatible mates," Setchell said.

PTI



First Published: Wednesday, November 25, 2009 - 21:30
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