The geographic mosaic theory of coevolution posits that the form of selection between interacting species varies across a landscape with coevolution important and active in some locations (i.e., coevolutionary hotspots) but not in others (i.e., coevolutionary coldspots). We tested the hypothesis that the presence of red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) affects the occurrence of coevolution between red crossbills (Loxia curvirostra complex) and Rocky Mountain lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta ssp. latifolia) and thereby provides a mechanism giving rise to a geographic mosaic of selection. Red squirrels are the predominant predispersal seed predator and selective agent on lodgepole pine cones. However, in four isolated mountain ranges east and west of the Rocky Mountains, red squirrels are absent and red crossbills are the main predispersal seed predator. These isolated populations of pine have apparently evolved without Tamiasciurus for about 10,000 to 12,000 years. Based on published morphological, genetic, and paleobotanical studies, we infer that cone traits in these isolated populations that show parallel differences from cones in the Rocky Mountains have changed in parallel. We used data on crossbill and conifer cone morphology and feeding preferences and efficiency to detect whether red crossbills and lodgepole pine exhibit reciprocal adaptations, which would imply coevolution. Cone traits that act to deter Tamiasciurus and result in high ratios of cone mass to seed mass were less developed in the isolated populations. Cone traits that act to deter crossbills include larger and thicker scales and perhaps increased overlap between successive scales and were enhanced in the isolated populations. In the larger, isolated mountain ranges crossbills have evolved deeper, shorter, and therefore more decurved bills to exploit these cones. This provides crossbills with higher feeding rates, and the change in bill shape has improved efficiency by reducing the concomitant increases in body mass and daily energy expenditures that would have resulted if only bill size had increased. These parallel adaptations and counter adaptations in red crossbills and lodgepole pine are interpreted as reciprocal adaptations and imply that these crossbills and pine are in coevolutionary arms races where red squirrels are absent (i.e., coevolutionary hotspots) but not where red squirrels are present (i.e., coevolutionary coldspots).
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Vol. 55 • No. 2