• morphology;
  • Müllerian mimicry;
  • phenotypic variation;
  • mtDNA COII

A new species of Heliconius and a new geographical race of Heliconius melpomene are described from the vicinity of Mocoa, Dpto. Putumayo, Colombia, based on molecular and morphological characters. The new species, H. tristero, is a close relative of H. cydno, a geographically differentiated species which lacks red coloration and engages in Müllerian mimicry with other blue and yellow Heliconius species in Central and northwestern South America. H. tristero has switched mimetic associations, instead mimicking the local, sympatric forms of two widespread mimetic species, H. erato and H. melpomene. This discovery provides evidence that the splinter species H. heurippa, H. tristero and H. timareta represent phenotypically divergent members of the H. cydno group that are endemic to successive river valleys on the eastern slope of the northern Andean Cordillera. The nominal taxon Heliconius amaryllis bellula Stichel, currently misapplied to both H. tristero and H. melpomene populations from the Mocoa region of Colombia, is considered here to represent a hybrid between H. heurippa and H. tristero. The Mocoa melpomene race is formally named Heliconius melpomene mocoa, new subspecies.