The distribution of mitochondrial control region-sequence polymorphism was investigated in 15 populations of Crocidura russula along an altitudinal gradient in western Switzerland. High-altitude populations are smaller, sparser and appear to undergo frequent bottlenecks. Accordingly, they showed a loss of rare haplotypes, but unexpectedly, were less differentiated than lowland populations. Furthermore, the major haplotypes segregated significantly with altitude. The results were inconsistent with a simple model of drift and dispersal. They suggested instead a role for historical patterns of colonization, or, alternatively, present-day selective forces acting on one of the mitochondrial genes involved in metabolic pathways.