Diversity at the Major Histocompatibility Complex class II in the platypus, Ornithorhynchus anatinus
The platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) is the sole survivor of a previously widely distributed and diverse lineage of ornithorhynchid monotremes. Its dependence on healthy water systems imposes an inherent sensitivity to habitat degradation and climate change. Here, we compare genetic diversity at the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) Class II-DZB gene and 3 MHC-associated microsatellite markers with diversity at 6 neutral microsatellite markers in 70 platypuses from across their range, including the mainland of Australia and the isolated populations of Tasmania, King Island, and Kangaroo Island. Overall, high DZB diversity was observed in the platypus, with 57 DZB β1 alleles characterized. Significant positive selection was detected within the DZB peptide-binding region, promoting variation in this domain. Low levels of genetic diversity were detected at all markers in the 2 island populations, King Island (endemic) and Kangaroo Island (introduced), with the King Island platypuses monomorphic at the DZB locus. Loss of MHC diversity on King Island is of concern, as the population may have compromised immunological fitness and reduced ability to resist changing environmental conditions.