Despite many studies, the impact of chromosome rearrangements on gene flow between chromosome races of the common shrew (Sorex araneus Linnaeus, 1758) remains unclear. Interracial hybrids form meiotic chromosome complexes that are associated with reduced fertility. Nevertheless comprehensive investigations of autosomal and mitochondrial markers revealed weak or no barrier to gene flow between chromosomally divergent populations. In a narrow zone of contact between the Novosibirsk and Tomsk races hybrids are produced with extraordinarily complex configurations at meiosis I. Microsatellite markers have not revealed any barrier to gene flow, but the phenotypic differentiation between races is greater than may be expected if gene flow was unrestricted. To explore this contradiction we analyzed the distribution of the Y chromosome SNP markers within this hybrid zone. The Y chromosome variants in combination with race specific autosome complements allow backcrosses to be distinguished and their proportion among individuals within the hybrid zone to be evaluated. The balanced ratio of the Y variants observed among the pure race individuals as well as backcrosses reveals no male mediated barrier to gene flow. The impact of reproductive unfitness of backcrosses on gene flow is discussed as a possible mechanism of the preservation of race-specific morphology within the hybrid zone.
Keywords: Sorex araneus; Y chromosome; gene flow; hybrid zone; phenotypic evolution.