Chromosomal races of the common shrew differ in sets of metacentric chromosomes and on contact may produce hybrids with extraordinarily complex configurations at meiosis I that are associated with reduced fertility. There is an expectation that these may be some of the most extreme tension zones available for study and therefore are of interest as potential sites for reproductive isolation. Here, we analyse one of these zones, between the Novosibirsk race (characterized by metacentrics go, hn, ik, jl, mp and qr) and the Tomsk race (metacentrics gk, hi, jl and mn and acrocentrics o, p, q and r), which form hybrids with a chain-of-nine (CIX) and a chain-of-three (CIII) configuration at meiosis I. At the Novosibirsk-Tomsk hybrid zone, the CIX chromosomes form clines of 8.53 km standardized width on average, whereas the cline for the CIII chromosomes was 52.83 km wide. The difference in these cline widths fits with the difference in meiotic errors expected with the CIX and CIII configuration, and we produce estimates of selection against hybrids with these types of configurations, which we relate to dispersal and age of the hybrid zone. The hybrid zone is located at the isocline at 200 m altitude above sea level; this relationship between the races and altitude is suggested at both coarse and fine scales. This indicates adaptive differences between the races that may in turn have been promoted by the chromosome differences. Thus, the extreme chromosomal divergence between the Novosibirsk and Tomsk may be associated with genic differentiation, but it is still striking that, despite the large chromosomal differences, reproductive isolation between the Novosibirsk and Tomsk races has not occurred.
© 2011 The Authors. Journal of Evolutionary Biology © 2011 European Society For Evolutionary Biology.