Tenrecs (Tenrecidae) are a widely diversified assemblage of small eutherian mammals that occur in Madagascar and Western and Central Africa. With the exception of a few early karyotypic descriptions based on conventional staining, nothing is known about the chromosomal evolution of this family. We present a detailed analysis of G-banded and molecularly defined chromosomes based on fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) that allows a comprehensive comparison between the karyotypes of 11 species of two closely related Malagasy genera, Microgale (10 species) and Oryzorictes (one species), of the subfamily Oryzorictinae. The karyotypes of Microgale taiva and M. parvula (2n = 32) were found to be identical to that of O. hova (2n = 32) most likely reflecting the ancestral karyotypes of both genera, as well as that of the Oryzorictinae. Parsimony analysis of chromosomal rearrangements that could have arisen following Whole Arm Reciprocal Translocations (WARTs) showed, however, that these are more likely to be the result of Robertsonian translocations. A single most parsimonious tree was obtained that provides strong support for three species associations within Microgale, all of which are consistent with previous molecular and morphological investigations. By expanding on a recently published molecular clock for the Tenrecidae we were able to place our findings in a temporal framework that shows strong chromosomal rate heterogeneity within the Oryzorictinae. We use these data to critically examine the possible role of chromosomal rearrangements in speciation within Microgale.
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