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Keywords:

  • Gene flow;
  • hybridization;
  • mimicry;
  • speciation;
  • wing-pattern evolution

Hybrid zones present opportunities to study the effects of gene flow, selection, and recombination in natural populations and, thus, provide insights into the genetic and phenotypic changes that occur early in speciation. Here we investigate a hybrid zone between mimetic (Limenitis arthemis astyanax) and nonmimetic (Limenitis arthemis arthemis) populations of admiral butterflies using DNA sequence variation from mtDNA and seven nuclear gene loci. We find three distinct mitochondrial clades within this complex, and observe a strong overall concordance between wing-pattern phenotypes and mitochondrial variation. Nuclear gene genealogies, in contrast, revealed no evidence of exclusivity for either wing-pattern phenotype, suggesting incomplete barriers to gene exchange and/or insufficient time for lineage sorting. Coalescent simulations indicate that gene flow between these two subspecies is highly asymmetric, with the majority of migration occurring from mimetic into nonmimetic populations. Selective sweeps of alleles responsible for mimetic phenotypes may have occurred more than once when mimetic and nonmimetic Limenitis occurred together in the presence of the model (Battus philenor).