Michael Majerus

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Michael E. N. Majerus
Born 13 February 1954 (1954-02-13)
Died 27 January 2009 (2009-01-28) (aged 54)
Coton, Cambridgeshire
Residence United Kingdom
Nationality British
Fields Entomology, Evolutionary biology, Genetics
Institutions Keele University
University of Cambridge
Alma mater Royal Holloway College
Known for Peppered moth evolution
Notable awards Sir Peter Scott Memorial Award

Michael Eugene Nicolas Majerus (13 February 1954 – 27 January 2009) was a geneticist and Professor of Ecology at Clare College, Cambridge, an enthusiast who became a world authority in his field of evolutionary biology. He was widely noted for his work on moths and ladybirds and as an advocate of the science of evolution. He was also an enthusiastic educator[1][2] and the author of several books on insects,[3][4] evolution[5][6] and sexual reproduction.[7]

The son of Fernand and Muriel Majerus, he took an early interest in lepidoptera and ecological genetics following the work of E.B. Ford, whose book Moths (in the New Naturalist series)[8] he bought at the age of ten. He was educated at Merchant Taylors' School, Northwood, and graduated in botany and zoology from Royal Holloway College, London.[9] Later he moved into studying ladybirds, an area which brought him widespread publicity as an expert in 2004 when the Harlequin ladybird came to Britain, causing a disaster for native species. This publicity led to the involvement of members of the public in the effective monitoring of the spread of the Harlequin. His work on the peppered moth provided new support for the understanding of peppered moth evolution.[6][10][11]

His research work was largely focussed around insect species, particularly the peppered moth and ladybirds, but explored these from many different perspectives including melanism,[12] male killers,[13][14] sexual selection,[15][16] sexually transmitted diseases,[17] animal colouration,[18] invasive species,[19][20] and biological pest control.[21]

He was the president of the Amateur Entomologists' Society,[22] a Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society, and a Life Fellow of the British Naturalists' Association. He received a number of awards, including the Sir Peter Scott Memorial Award in 2006, for his contributions to British Natural History.

He died January 27, 2009 after an unexpected and brief struggle with aggressive mesothelioma.


  1. ^ For example: Majerus, M.E.N. (2008). "Signs of Darwin in your back garden: The defensive colour patterns of moths and butterflies". AES Bug Club 16: 29–40. 
  2. ^ Majerus, M.E.N. (2009). "Industrial Melanism in the Peppered Moth, Biston betularia: An Excellent Teaching Example of Darwinian Evolution in Action". Evolution: Education and Outreach 2: 63–74. doi:10.1007/s12052-008-0107-y. 
  3. ^ Majerus, M. E. N. (1994). Ladybirds. New Naturalist series, #81. Collins, London, UK. ISBN 0-00-219935-1. 
  4. ^ Majerus, M. E. N. (2002). Moths. New Naturalist series, #90. Collins, London, UK. ISBN 0-00-220142-9. 
  5. ^ Majerus, M. E. N.; Amos, W. D.; Hurst, G. D. D. (1996). Evolution the Four Billion Year War. Longman, UK. ISBN 0-582-21569-2. 
  6. ^ a b Majerus, M. E. N. (1998). Melanism: Evolution in Action. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK. ISBN 0-19-854982-2. 
  7. ^ Majerus, M. E. N. (2003). Sex Wars: Genes Bacteria and Biased Sex Ratios. Princeton University Press, Princeton, USA. ISBN 0-691-00981-3. 
  8. ^ Ford, E.B. (1955). Moths. New Naturalist #30 (1st ed.). HarperCollins, London, UK. 
  9. ^ Obituary, The Independent
  10. ^ Majerus, M. E. N. (2008). "Non-morph specific predation of peppered moths (Biston betularia) by bats". Ecological Entomology 33 (5): 679–683. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2311.2008.00987.x. 
  11. ^ "University of Cambridge, Department of Genetics". Professor Mike Majerus 1954 - 2009. 31 March 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-05. 
  12. ^ Majerus, M.E.N.; Mundy, N.I. (2003). "Mammalian melanism: natural selection in black and white". Trends in Genetics 19 (11): 585–588. doi:10.1016/j.tig.2003.09.003. PMID 14585605. 
  13. ^ Majerus, M.E.N.; Hurst, G.D.D. (1997). "Ladybirds as a model system for the study of male-killing symbionts". Entomophaga 42: 13–20. doi:10.1007/BF02769875. 
  14. ^ Hurst, G.D.D.; Jiggins, F.M.; von der Schulenburg, J.H.G.; Bertrand, D.; West, S.A.; Goriacheva, I.I.; Zakharov, I.A.; Werren, J.H.; Stouthamer, R.; Majerus, M.E.N. (1999). "Male-killing Wolbachia in two species of insect". Proceedings of the Royal Society B 266: 735–740. 
  15. ^ Majerus, M.E.N.; O'Donald, P.; Weir, J. (1982). "Female mating preference is genetic". Nature 300 (5892): 521–523. doi:10.1038/300521a0. PMID 7144902. 
  16. ^ Haddrill, P.R.; Shuker, D.M.; Amos, W.; Majerus, M.E.N.; Mayes, S. (2008). "Female multiple mating in wild and laboratory populations of the two-spot ladybird, Adalia bipunctata". Molecular Ecology 17 (13): 3189–3197. doi:10.1111/j.1365-294X.2008.03812.x. PMID 18522693. 
  17. ^ Hurst, G.D.D.; Sharpe, R.G.; Broomfield, A.H.; Walker, L.E.; Majerus, T.M.O.; Zakharov, I.A.; Majerus, M.E.N. (1995). "Sexually-transmitted disease in a promiscuous insect, Adalia bipunctata". Ecological Entomology 20 (3): 230–236. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2311.1995.tb00452.x. 
  18. ^ Brunton, C.F.A.; Majerus, M.E.N. (1995). "Ultraviolet colors in butterflies – intraspecific or inter-specific communication". Proceedings of the Royal Society B 260 (1358): 199–204. doi:10.1098/rspb.1995.0080. 
  19. ^ Brown, P.M.J.; Roy, H.E.; Rothery, P.; Roy, D.B.; Ware, R.L.; Majerus, M.E.N. (2008). "Harmonia axyridis in Great Britain: analysis of the spread and distribution of a non-native coccinellid". BioControl 53: 55–67. doi:10.1007/s10526-007-9124-y. 
  20. ^ Ware, R.L.; Majerus, M.E.N. (2008). "Intraguild predation of immature stages of British and Japanese coccinellids by the invasive ladybird Harmonia axyridis". BioControl 53: 169–188. doi:10.1007/s10526-007-9135-8. 
  21. ^ Rhule, E.; Majerus, M.E.N. (2008). "The potential of the sexually-transmitted mite, Coccipolipus hippodamiae, to control the harlequin ladybird, Harmonia axyridis, in Britain". Bulletin of the Amateur Entomologists' Society 67: 153–160. 
  22. ^ Majerus, M.E.N. (2008). "Natural history and the future of the world: Presidential Address given at the Amateur Entomologists' Society AGM on 26th April 2008". Bulletin of the Amateur Entomologists' Society 67: 89–98. 

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