ABOVE: The four main color morphs of the harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis)

The harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis) owes its 200 color variants to a transcription factor’s control over a single gene, according to a study published August 23 in Current Biology

The researchers used genomic and genetic analyses to determine the role of the transcription factor, called Pannier, in the pigmentation of a ladybird’s elytra, or fore wings. The different pannier alleles dictate protein production in specific regions of the elytra, leading to the various patterns of black and red splotches. 

M. Gautier et al., “The genomic basis of color pattern polymorphism in the harlequin ladybird,” Curr Biol, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2018.08.023, 2018.

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