In this article, we describe a hybrid zone between the chrysomelid beetles, Chrysochus auratus (F.), and C. cobaltinus LeConte, which have historically been considered as having allopatric distributions. By combining field studies with surveys of museum specimens, we documented that in western North America there are two regions in which these beetles are sympatric, and four additional regions in which populations of the two species are <100 km apart. In south-central Washington, we found an ≈25 km wide area of sympatry in which the two species freely interbreed. Morphological and allozyme differences between the species allowed us to demonstrate that individuals with intermediate coloration in this area are indeed hybrids; all 22 putative hybrids we assayed for allozyme variation were heterozygous at each of three species-specific loci. Museum specimens revealed that the two species have been hybridizing in this region at least since 1952. Within the hybrid zone, ≈10–15% of the beetles is apparently F1hybrids. At one focal site, 22.9% of all matings involved heterospecific pairs and 20.8% of all matings involved at least one hybrid individual. Although we found no molecular evidence of introgression between the two species, morphometric results and preliminary ecological data suggest possible past introgression or weak ongoing introgression. We discuss the implications of our findings for the specific status of these two species. This system appears well suited to provide answers to long-standing questions concerning the evolution of premating barriers between hybridizing species. In addition, hybridization between these two beetle species with differing host ranges will allow us to test the hypothesis that ecologically significant traits such as diet breadth can be gained via introgression.
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Vol. 94 • No. 1