Understanding the fate of hybrids in wild populations is fundamental to understanding speciation. Here we provide evidence for disruptive sexual selection against hybrids between Heliconius cydno and Heliconius melpomene. The two species are sympatric across most of Central and Andean South America, and coexist despite a low level of hybridization. No-choice mating experiments show strong assortative mating between the species. Hybrids mate readily with one another, but both sexes show a reduction in mating success of over 50% with the parental species. Mating preference is associated with a shift in the adult colour pattern, which is involved in predator defence through Müllerian mimicry, but also strongly affects male courtship probability. The hybrids, which lie outside the curve of protection afforded by mimetic resemblance to the parental species, are also largely outside the curves of parental mating preference. Disruptive sexual selection against F(1) hybrids therefore forms an additional post-mating barrier to gene flow, blurring the distinction between pre-mating and post-mating isolation, and helping to maintain the distinctness of these hybridizing species.
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