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Cannibalism in invasive, native and biocontrol populations of the harlequin ladybird

Tayeh, Ashraf; Estoup, Arnaud; Lombaert, Eric; Guillemaud, Thomas; Kirichenko, Natalia; Lawson-Handley, Lori; De Clercq, Patrick; Facon, Benoît


Ashraf Tayeh

Arnaud Estoup

Eric Lombaert

Thomas Guillemaud

Natalia Kirichenko

Patrick De Clercq

Benoît Facon


Cannibalism is widespread in both vertebrates and invertebrates but its extent is variable between and within species. Cannibalism depends on population density and nutritional conditions, and could be beneficial during colonisation of new environments. Empirical studies are needed to determine whether this trait might facilitate invasion of a new area in natural systems. We investigated whether the propensity for cannibalism in H. axyridis differs both between native and invasive populations and between invasive populations from the core and from the front of the invasive area in Western Europe. We also compared the propensity for cannibalism of these natural populations with that of laboratory-reared biocontrol populations. We measured the cannibalism rates of eggs by first instar larvae and adult females at two different individual densities of ladybirds from three types of population (invasive, native and biocontrol), in laboratory-controlled conditions.

Cannibalism was significantly greater in larvae from invasive populations compared to native or biocontrol populations, but there was no difference in cannibalism rates between populations from the core or front of the invaded range. Cannibalism was significantly lower in larvae from biocontrol populations compared to wild (invasive and native) populations. No differences in cannibalism rates of adult females were found between any populations. While high population density significantly increased cannibalism in both larvae and adults, the norm of reaction of cannibalism to individual density did not change significantly during the invasion and/or laboratory rearing processes.

This study is the first to provide evidence for a higher propensity for cannibalism in invasive populations compared to native ones. Our experiments also shed light on the difference in cannibalism evolution with respect to life stages. However, we are still at an early stage in understanding the underlying mechanisms and several different research perspectives are needed to determine whether the higher propensity for cannibalism is a general feature of the invasion process.


Tayeh, A., Estoup, A., Lombaert, E., Guillemaud, T., Kirichenko, N., Lawson-Handley, L., …Facon, B. (2014). Cannibalism in invasive, native and biocontrol populations of the harlequin ladybird. BMC evolutionary biology, 14(1), Article 15.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 7, 2014
Publication Date Feb 5, 2014
Deposit Date Aug 6, 2018
Publicly Available Date Oct 27, 2022
Journal BMC Evolutionary Biology
Print ISSN 1471-2148
Electronic ISSN 1471-2148
Publisher Springer Verlag
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 14
Issue 1
Article Number 15
Keywords Harmonia axyridis; Cannibalism; Evolution; Invasive; Native and biocontrol populations
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Copyright Statement
© Tayeh et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2014<br /> <br /> This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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