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Textbook moth mutation located

Identifying the genomic region that gave peppered moths their darker coloration during the Industrial Revolution lends molecular support to a classic example of evolutionary change

Jef Akst
Jef Akst

Jef Akst is managing editor of The Scientist, where she started as an intern in 2009 after receiving a master’s degree from Indiana University in April 2009 studying the mating behavior of seahorses.

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A single mutation in the genome of the peppered moth is responsible for shifting populations to a darker phenotype that helped camouflage the insects during the Industrial Revolution in England, when pollution blackened the trees in the moths' habitat.
The dark (carbonaria) and light (typica) forms of the peppered moth
Photo by Ilik Saccheri, © Science/AAAS
The results, published today (April 14) in Science Express, support the widely-cited example of adaptation to environmental change, which became the subject of controversy over the last couple decades."I think it's really exciting," said evolutionary biologist linkurl:Chris Jiggins;http://www.zoo.cam.ac.uk/zoostaff/jiggins.htm of the University of Cambridge, who was not involved in the research. "This really quite nice population genetics support for the classic story that a single mutation arose and then spread rapidly through natural selection.""It's such a classic, well known, well documented example, but the molecular stuff has been absent,"...
thcarbonariatypicathcarbonariatypicaHeliconiusA.E. van't Hof et al., "Industrial melanism in British peppered moths has a singular and recent mutational origin," Science Express, 10.1126/science.1203043, 2011.



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