Insect wing color patterns demonstrate a tremendous range of diversity and have evolved to fulfill various ecologically important functions such as intraspecific sexual signaling, mimesis, mimicry and warning against predators. The molecular mechanisms behind such pattern formation, however, remain almost unknown. To investigate the developmental mechanisms of color pattern formation, we chose the multicolored Asian ladybird beetle, Harmonia axyridis (Coleoptera), which has conspicuous and variable wing color patterns consisting of black and red pigments. Classical genetic studies revealed that the elytral color patterns are thought to be regulated by a single locus which gives multiple alleles, and that the color patterns are formed from the superimposition of any combinations of four major alleles. In addition, in any heterozygotes, the black-pigmented area invariably appears as dominant character at the overlapping black and red pigmentations where the color patterns of different alleles are superimposed. The mechanisms involved in wing color pattern formation remain totally unknown.
Our ultimate goal is to elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying the wing color patterns in H. axyridis.