• chromosomal evolution;
  • chromosome races;
  • mitochondrial DNA;
  • Sorex araneus


The common shrew, Sorex araneus, has one of the most variable karyotypes among mammals, displaying numerous chromosome races throughout its distribution. The six chromosome races present in Sweden can be categorized in two different karyotypic groups, the west and north European karyotypic groups (western and northern). Three races belonging to the western group are considered to have arisen through whole arm reciprocal translocations (WARTs). Race formation through this process requires a bottleneck event. In the present study we sequenced a part of the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) genome to investigate molecular differences between the chromosome races in Sweden. We found no mtDNA differentiation between the mainland chromosome races or the karyotypic groups. Genetic variation is as large between populations within a race as between populations among the races or karyotypic groups, suggesting that the karyotypic groups might have originated in a common glacial refugium. The noticeable exception is the Öland race, which shows higher mtDNA diversity compared to the other Swedish races, indicating a divergent origin difficult to explain. Mitochondrial DNA variation in Sweden suggests that most haplotypes arose in situ and that the populations has undergone a rapid size expansion. Altogether, the mtDNA data are in agreement with the WART hypothesis, which still holds as the most plausible variant of karyotype evolution for three of the chromosome races of the common shrew in Sweden.