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  • 2 years ago
The Peppered Moth Mutation

The Peppered Moth Mutation

The peppered moth has long been taught in schools as an example of Darwinian Natural selection happening almost on human timescales. In 19th century industrial Britain, soot on trees caused a mutation in the genes that regulated the wing colour to briefly thrive. Birds ate the unfortunate typical lighter coloured ones, while the mutant black ones were better camouflaged. Until that is, the clean air act allowed the older, typical coloured one to return in numbers. For the first time, scientists have now identified the genetic goings-on that underpin this classic case. And even better, they suggest the single original mutation in an individual moth occurred just when one might have expected – sometime around 1819. The two papers were published in the journal Nature, one identifying the gene at the heart of the moth wing pattern, the other identifying the mutation, which arose during the industrial revolution. Roland Pease spoke to the author of that second paper, Ilic Sackiery, a