The peppered moth.

The peppered moth, Biston betularia, has been used as a classic example of natural selection in action. This moth (like many others) includes both light and dark forms that change in frequency under conditions of higher or lower pollution. Anti-evolutionists have challenged this, and unfortunately they gained ammunition in this regard from a book review by Jerry Coyne.


As part of their Top 10 evolution articles, New Scientist provides a story entitled Reclaiming the peppered moth for science.

Bad news, the New Scientist story is subscription only.

Good news, Evolution: Education and Outreach will include a paper about the peppered moth by leading expert Michael Majerus in the next issue, and it’s a) already available in pre-print, and b) free.

While you’re visiting the journal, check out the last issue which is a special volume all about eyes.


4 comments to The peppered moth.

  • RBH

    Well, a one-page preview is free. Full text is still behind a paywall.

      (Quote)

  • T Ryan Gregory

    I believe that is just a glitch — was fine last night, and even the eye special issue is closed and I *know* that one’s free online.

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  • The Evolution: Education and Outreach paper was indeed duly published.

    Since you wrote this, Michael Majerus died suddenly (2009). However, a group of us rescued what data we could from Majerus’ long-term experiment as presented in his talk in Uppsala, and wrote it up. The paper is open source:
    http://rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/8/4/609.full

    I think that this long term work by Majerus’ work convincingly shows that strong selection is due to predation based on colour pattern in this species, and that other explanations are highly unlikely. A “black and white story” after all. Jerry Coyne himself was convinced, and blogged about it on “Why Evolution is True.” One of our coauthors was Bruce Grant, a mentor of Jerry Coyne when he was an undergraduate at William & Mary.

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