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Keywords:

  • chromosomal rearrangements;
  • genetic structure;
  • microsatellite markers;
  • Sorex araneus group;
  • speciation

Abstract

Robertsonian (Rb) fusions received large theoretical support for their role in speciation, but empirical evidence is often lacking. Here, we address the role of Rb rearrangements on the genetic differentiation of the karyotypically diversified group of shrews, Sorex araneus. We compared genetic structure between ‘rearranged’ and ‘common’ chromosomes in pairwise comparisons of five karyotypic taxa of the group. Considering all possible comparisons, we found a significantly greater differentiation at rearranged chromosomes, supporting the role of chromosomal rearrangements in the general genetic diversification of this group. Intertaxa structure and distance were larger across rearranged chromosomes for most of the comparisons, although these differences were not significant. This last result could be explained by the large variance observed among microsatellite-based estimates. The differences observed among the pairs of taxa analysed support the role of both the hybrid karyotypic complexity and the level of evolutionary divergence.