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Keywords:

  • Hybrid zone;
  • Mus musculus domesticus;
  • Robertsonian fusion;
  • simulation modeling;
  • speciation

Speciation may be promoted in hybrid zones if there is an interruption to gene flow between the hybridizing forms. For hybridizing chromosome races of the house mouse in Valtellina (Italy), distinguished by whole-arm chromosomal rearrangements, previous studies have shown that there is greater interruption to gene flow at the centromeres of chromosomes that differ between the races than at distal regions of the same chromosome or at the centromeres of other chromosomes. Here, by increasing the number of markers along race-specific chromosomes, we reveal a decay in between-race genetic differentiation from the centromere to the distal telomere. For the first time, we use simulation models to investigate the possible role of recombination suppression and hybrid breakdown in generating this pattern. We also consider epistasis and selective sweeps as explanations for isolated chromosomal regions away from the centromere showing differentiation between the races. Hybrid breakdown alone is the simplest explanation for the decay in genetic differentiation with distance from the centromere. Robertsonian fusions/whole-arm reciprocal translocations are common chromosomal rearrangements characterizing both closely related species and races within species, and this fine-scale empirical analysis suggests that the unfitness associated with these rearrangements in the heterozygous state may contribute to the speciation process.