Most studies of reinforcement have focused on the evolution of either female choice or male mating cues, following the long-held view in sexual selection theory that mating mistakes are typically more costly for females than for males. However, factors such as conspecific sperm precedence can buffer females against the cost of mating mistakes, suggesting that in some hybrid zones mating mistakes may be more costly for males than for females. Thus, the historical bias in reinforcement research may underestimate its frequency. In this study, we present evidence that reinforcement has driven the evolution of male choice in a hybrid zone between the highly promiscuous leaf beetles Chrysochus cobaltinus and C. auratus, the hybrids of which have extremely low fitness. In addition, there is evidence for male choice in these beetles and that male mating mistakes may be costly, due to reduced opportunities to mate with conspecific females. The present study combines laboratory and field methods to quantify the strength of sexual isolation, test the hypothesis of reproductive character displacement, and assess the link between relative abundance and the strength of selection against hybridization. We document that, while sexual isolation is weak, it is sufficient to produce positive assortative mating. In addition, reproductive character displacement was only detected in the relatively rare species. The strong postzygotic barriers in this system are sufficient to generate the bimodality that characterizes this hybrid zone, but the weak sexual isolation is not, calling into question whether strong prezygotic isolation is necessary for the maintenance of bimodality. Growing evidence that the cost of mating mistakes is sufficient to shape the evolution of male mate choice suggests that the reinforcement of male mate choice may prove to be a widespread occurrence.
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Vol. 59 • No. 12