What constitutes optical warning signals of ladybirds (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) towards bird predators: colour, pattern or general look?


Michaela Dolenská, Oldřich Nedvěd, Petr Veselý, Monika Tesařová, Roman Fuchs

DOI: 10.1111/j.1095-8312.2009.01277.x


Most ladybirds (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) possess chemical protection against predators and signal its presence by less or more conspicuous coloration, which can be considered as a warning. Most ladybirds possess a dotted pattern, althougn the number, shape, and size of the spots, as well as their colour, varies considerably. Almost all ladybirds have a characteristic general appearance (body shape). We considered these traits to be used in ladybird recognition by avian predators. In the present study, we compared the reactions of avian predators (Parus major) caught in the wild, to four differently coloured ladybird beetles (Coccinella septempunctata, Exochomus quadripustulatus, Subcoccinella vigintiquatuorpunctata, and Cynegetis impunctata) and two artificial modifications of C. septempunctata; the first was deprived of their elytral spotted pattern by painting it brown, the other had their elytra removed (i.e. altering their general ladybird appearance). Ladybirds with a spotted pattern were attacked less frequently than unspotted ones. Ladybirds with removed elytra were attacked much more often than any ladybird with a preserved general appearance. The results obtained in the present study suggest the high importance of the spotted pattern as well as general appearance in the ladybird recognition process. Additional experiments with naïve birds (hand-reared P. major) demonstrated the innateness of the aversion to two differently spotted ladybird species (C. septempunctata and Scymnus frontalis).

Back to scientific papers.