It has been long recognized that highly polymorphic genetic markers can lead to underestimation of divergence between populations when migration is low. Microsatellite loci, which are characterized by extremely high mutation rates, are particularly likely to be affected. Here, we report genetic differentiation estimates in a contact zone between two chromosome races of the common shrew (Sorex araneus), based on 10 autosomal microsatellites, a newly developed Y-chromosome microsatellite, and mitochondrial DNA. These results are compared to previous data on proteins and karyotypes. Estimates of genetic differentiation based on F- and R-statistics are much lower for autosomal microsatellites than for all other genetic markers. We show by simulations that this discrepancy stems mainly from the high mutation rate of microsatellite markers for F-statististics and from deviations from a single-step mutation model for R-statistics. The sex-linked genetic markers show that all gene exchange between races is mediated by females. The absence of male-mediated gene flow most likely results from male hybrid sterility.
Corresponding Editor: K. Ross