Genetic incompatibility drives mate choice in a parasitic wasp

A. Thiel, A.C. Weeda, J.G. de Boer, T.S. Hoffmeister

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Introduction: Allelic incompatibility between individuals of the same species should select for mate choice based on the genetic make-up of both partners at loci that influence offspring fitness. As a consequence, mate choice may be an important driver of allelic diversity. A complementary sex determination (CSD) system is responsible for intraspecific allelic incompatibility in many species of ants, bees, and wasps. CSD may thus favour disassortative mating and in this, resembles the MHC of the vertebrate immune system, or the self-incompatibility (SI) system of higher plants. Results: Here we show that in the monogamous parasitic wasp Bracon brevicornis (Wesmael), females are able to reject partners with incompatible alleles. Forcing females to accept initially rejected partners resulted in sex ratio distortion and partial infertility of offspring. Conclusions: CSD-disassortative mating occurred independent of kin recognition and inbreeding avoidance in our experiment. The fitness consequences of mate choice are directly observable, not influenced by environmental effects, and more severe than in comparable systems (SI or MHC), on individuals as well as at the population level. Our results thus demonstrate the strong potential of female mate choice for maintaining high offspring fitness in this species.
Original languageEnglish
Article number10:43
Number of pages6
JournalFrontiers in Zoology
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • complementary sex determination
  • field crickets
  • selection
  • mhc
  • preferences
  • hymenoptera
  • quality
  • extinction
  • increases
  • humans

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    Thiel, A., Weeda, A. C., de Boer, J. G., & Hoffmeister, T. S. (2013). Genetic incompatibility drives mate choice in a parasitic wasp. Frontiers in Zoology, 10, [10:43].