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An early stage of sex chromosome differentiation is reported to occur in the electric eel Eigenmannia virescens (Pisces, Sternopygidae) from populations of two tributaries of the Paraná river system (Brazil). Cytogenetic studies carried out in the two populations showed that the Mogi-Guaçu population is characterized by 2n = 38 chromosomes and undifferentiated sex chromosomes and the Tietê population presents 2n = 38 both for males and females and an XX:XY sex chromosome system. The X-chromosome is acrocentric, easily recognized by the presence of a conspicuous heterochromatin block in its distal portion; the Y-chromosome is probably one of the medium sized acrocentrics present in the male karyotype. BrdU induced R-bands of the two populations did not reveal any difference in the euchromatic regions of the chromosomes. AluI and HaeIII restriction enzyme digestion patterns and chromomycin A3 staining of the X-chromosome are presented. The possible role of heterochromatinization in the evolution of sex chromosomes in fish is discussed.
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