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Nature. 2001 May 17;411(6835):302-5.

Reproductive isolation caused by colour pattern mimicry.

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The Galton Laboratory, University College London, 4 Stephenson Way, London NW1 2HE, UK.


Speciation is facilitated if ecological adaptation directly causes assortative mating, but few natural examples are known. Here we show that a shift in colour pattern mimicry was crucial in the origin of two butterfly species. The sister species Heliconius melpomene and Heliconius cydno recently diverged to mimic different model taxa, and our experiments show that their mimetic coloration is also important in choosing mates. Assortative mating between the sister species means that hybridization is rare in nature, and the few hybrids that are produced are non-mimetic, poorly adapted intermediates. Thus, the mimetic shift has caused both pre-mating and post-mating isolation. In addition, individuals from a population of H. melpomene allopatric to H. cydno court and mate with H. cydno more readily than those from a sympatric population. This suggests that assortative mating has been enhanced in sympatry.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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