Evolutionary ecology of insect egg coloration: a review

  • Eric Guerra-GrenierEmail author


Body coloration in animals is often adaptive and used for defense against biotic (e.g., predators, competitors) and abiotic (e.g., solar radiation, desiccation) threats. The study of adaptive coloration in insects usually favors obvious model species such as yellowjacket wasps (Vespula spp.) and longwing butterflies (Heliconius spp.), partly because they actively interact with their environment. Yet, one life stage has received less attention because of its immobility: the egg. So far, vertebrate eggs, especially avian eggs, have held the ‘‘big end of the stick’’ when it comes to research effort on adaptive egg coloration. In species where eggs are not provided with parental care and left to survive on their own until hatching, studying the defensive roles played by their colors is imperative to understand their evolutionary ecology. Adaptive functions provided by egg coloration such as crypsis, aposematism and photoprotection against ultraviolet radiation potentially have huge fitness impacts and deserve more attention. Here, the current literature on insect egg coloration is reviewed, reporting its known adaptive significance. Clear distinctions are made between functions tested empirically and functions that remain hypothetical despite often being treated as facts. Avenues for future work in the field are also provided.


Defense mechanisms Adaptive coloration Crypsis Warning signals Masquerade Ultraviolet radiation 



Special thanks go to Thomas N. Sherratt for thorough revisions of every version of the manuscript. I would also like to thank Paul K. Abram, John T. Arnason, Naomi Cappuccino, Andrew Simons, Mark Forbes, Sam Church, Seth Donoughe and Gustavo L. Rezende for helpful discussions and/or comments on the manuscript. This research was supported by a FRQNT postgraduate scholarship.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares no conflict of interest.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada
  2. 2.Redpath MuseumMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada

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