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The behavior and physiology of two parapatric sibling species, Heliconius erato cyrbia Godt. and H. himera Hew., were investigated to assess if environmental adaptation enabled stable morphological, genetic, and ecological differences to exist in the face of hybridization. Morning and evening activity, egg production, and larval development time of H. himera and H. erato in insectaries were recorded; individuals were collected in allopatry and in sympatry from a hybrid zone in which the species overlapped. Studies were performed at ambient conditions within the natural range of H. himera. H. himera was considerably more active than H. erato, flying earlier in the morning and later in the evening, even when both species were collected in sympatry. Similarly, H. himera laid more eggs, and the hatched larvae developed more rapidly. The results suggest that physiological constraints are an important selective force that may have been important in speciation and counteracts hybridization in the maintenance of the H. himera/H. erato contact zone. Ecological selection, arising from adaptation to low temperatures, may help explain the competitive exclusion of H. erato by H. himera in the drier, cooler montane habitat favored by the latter species.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





661 - 668