The Harlequin Ladybird Survey
Harlequin ladybird elytra
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Dr Laura Jane (LJ) Michie

Position

PhD Student

Organisation

Department of Genetics, University of Cambridge

Ladybird research keywords

Melanic polymorphism, phenotypic plasticity, sexual selection, Harmonia axyridis, Adalia bipunctata, A. decempunctata, thermal melanism, evolutionary genetics.

Description of work

My Ph.D. is a study of polymorphism in three species of ladybird, including the invasive harlequin ladybird, Harmonia axyridis. As ladybirds are aposematic (brightly coloured in order to advertise a chemical defence), the presence of conspicuously different colour patterns seems contradictory. The theory of Müllerian mimicry predicts that individuals of distasteful species, such as ladybirds, would resemble each other, generally with bright "memorable" colours, in order to accelerate the rate at which naïve predators learn of their unpalatability and thereafter avoid them; i.e. they should be monomorphic. My work aims to elucidate the selective forces responsible for the maintenance of polymorphism in each species. Possible candidates for this include thermal melanism (darker forms being maintained due to a thermal advantage at colder temperatures) and sexual selection (certain morphs being perceived by potential mates as more attractive).

Key publications

Michie, L.J., Disney, R.H.L., Hall, R.J., Ware, R.L. & Majerus, M.E.N., (in press). First occurrence of Phoridae (Diptera) and live Harmonia axyridis (Pallas) (Col.: Coccinellidae) eclosing from the same pupae. The Entomologist's Record

Ware, R.L., Evans, N., Malpas, L., Michie, L.J., O'Farrell, K. & Majerus, M.E.N. (2008) Intraguild predation by the invasive ladybird Harmonia axyridis : 1. British and Japanese coccinellid eggs. Neobiota, 7: 263-275.

7-spot ladybird

LJ's favourite ladybird is the scarce 7-spot ladybird

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