Present address: Department of Biology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado 80523.


Every species occupies a restricted geographic distribution, but it is unclear why natural selection at the range margin fails to increase tolerance to limiting environmental variables and thereby allow continual range expansion. Models indicate that the interplay of demographic asymmetries, dispersal, divergent natural selection, and adaptive trade-offs across spatially varying environments can give rise to stable range limits. Here we examine sister species of the monkeyflowers Mimulus cardinalis and M. lewisii to identify traits that might contribute to the evolution of the species' ranges and to ask whether adaptive trade-offs between environments can limit their geographic distribution. In the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, M. cardinalis is found from low to mid elevation and M. lewisii is found from mid to high elevation. We transplanted segregating populations of interspecific hybrids to low and high elevation and cross-pollinated those that survived to flowering to create selected populations that evolved at low or high elevation. When grown in a common environment, the progeny of hybrids selected at high elevation flowered earlier compared to a greenhouse control population, whereas hybrids selected at low elevation displayed increased warm-temperature photosynthetic capacity. If adaptation to one environment entails a cost to adaptation in other environments, then selected hybrid populations should display reduced fitness, relative to an unselected control population, when grown in an environment in which they were not selected. Two such trade-offs were observed in this study, where hybrids selected at high elevation displayed reduced biomass when grown in temperatures characteristic of low elevation and hybrids selected at low elevation showed reduced resistance to freezing. These results identify traits under selection for range expansion and suggest that adaptive trade-offs can contribute to limiting the geographic distribution of species.