• chromosomal evolution;
  • divergence;
  • founder effect;
  • Rb fusion;
  • speciation

The central coastal region of Tunisia harbours two chromosomal races of the house mouse (2n = 22, 22Rb; 2n = 40, 40Std), which are genetically differentiated and show a high level of reproductive isolation. This study presents an allozyme analysis of house mice from the inland city of Kairouan 75 km from the coastal region. Results showed that the 22Rb and 40Std mice from Kairouan shared the same high degree of variability, and were not genetically differentiated. This contrasts with the genetic data registered for the two chromosomal races from the coastal towns, in which a particularly low genic diversity was observed in the 22Rb populations. As the two races in Kairouan show the same low hybridization rates as the populations in the coastal region, these results argue in favour of a local differentiation of the Rb race in Tunisia, most likely originating in Kairouan. The data further suggest that the decrease in variability observed in the coastal 22Rb populations is related to a founder effect or a bottleneck following the introduction of mice from Kairouan into one of these localities, prior to their dispersion throughout the coastal region. © 2005 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2005, 84, 515–521.