Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • Letter
  • Published:

Is polymorphism in two-spot ladybird an example of non-industrial melanism?


THE polymorphism exhibited by the two-spot ladybird, Adalia bipunctata Linn., in which specimens have a red ground colour and black spots (the typical morphs) or a black ground colour with red spots (the melanic morphs) is a well known phenomenon. The reasons for the existence of this polymorphism, however, are not well understood. Analogy to the situation in some melanic Lepidoptera, such as Biston betularia Linn.1,2, is unacceptable as it would seem that selective predation by birds upon the morphs which blend less well with their surroundings would not operate upon A. bipunctata. Ladybirds are distasteful, have a distinctive scent, are warningly coloured and therefore are avoided by vertebrate predators3,4.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy this article

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. Kettlewoll, H. B. D., Heredity, Lond. 9, 323–42 (1955).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Kettlewell, H. B. D., Heredity, Lond. 10, 287–301 (1956).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Frazer, J. F. D., and Rothschild, M., Proc. 11th int. Cong. Ent. 3, 249–56 (1960).

    Google Scholar 

  4. Rothschild, M., Trans R. ent. Soc. Lond., 113, 101–21 (1961).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Creed, E. R., Heredity, Lond., 21, 57–72 (1966).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Ecological Genetics and Evolution, (edit. by Creed E. R.) (Blackwell, Oxford, 1971).

  7. Creed, E. R., Evolution, Lancaster, Pa. 25, 290–93 (1971).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. Hawkes, O. A. M., Entomologist'a mon. Mag., 63, 262–266 (1927).

    Google Scholar 

  9. Hawkes, O. A. M., Proc. zool. Soc. Lond. 1920, 475–490 (1920).

    Google Scholar 

  10. Kettlewell, H. B. D., The evolution of melanism (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1973).

    Google Scholar 

  11. Lusis, J. J., Latv. Ent. 4, 3–29 (1961).

    Google Scholar 

  12. Digby, P. S. B., J. exp. Biol., 32, 279–98 (1955).

    Google Scholar 

  13. Dixon, A. F. G., J. anim. Ecol., 41, 689–97 (1972).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Benham, B. R., and Muggleton, J., Entomologist, 103, 153–70 (1970).

    Google Scholar 

  15. The Atlas of Britain and Northern Ireland, (edit. by Bickmore, D. P., and Shaw, M. A.), (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1963).

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

BENHAM, B., LONSDALE, D. & MUGGLETON, J. Is polymorphism in two-spot ladybird an example of non-industrial melanism?. Nature 249, 179–180 (1974).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing