The chromosomal speciation model invokes chromosomal rearrangements as the primary cause of reproductive isolation. In a heterozygous carrier, chromosomes bearing reciprocal translocations mis-segregate at meiosis, resulting in reduced fertility or complete sterility. Thus, chromosomal rearrangements act as a post-zygotic isolating mechanism. Reproductive isolation in yeast is due to post-zygotic barriers, as many species mate successfully but the hybrids are sterile. Reciprocal translocations are thought to be the main form of large-scale rearrangement since the hypothesized duplication of the whole yeast genome 10(8) years ago. To test the chromosomal speciation model in yeast, we have characterized chromosomal translocations among the genomes of six closely related species in the Saccharomyces 'sensu stricto' complex. Here we show that rearrangements have occurred between closely related species, whereas more distant ones have colinear genomes. Thus, chromosomal rearrangements are not a prerequisite for speciation in yeast and the rate of formation of translocations is not constant. These rearrangements appear to result from ectopic recombination between Ty elements or other repeated sequences.