One might think that past embarrassments about the peppered moth as evidence for evolution would keep evolutionists reluctant to mention them. A team from the University of Liverpool either didn’t get the message, or shed all reluctance anyway. They published a new paper about Biston betularia in Science,1 calling the moth story “a textbook example of how an altered environment may produce morphological adaptation throughgenetic change” and “one of the most widely recognized examples of contemporary evolutionary change.” The first reference was to Michael Majerus, who spent years trying to establish the peppered moth as an icon of evolution (06/25/2004, 09/03/2007, and item following02/08/2009).
Their paper, however, only discussed which mutations might have produced the black variety. The black ones, apparently losing their color due to a single mutation, did better when the trees were darker, but are now rapidly disappearing. No long-term evolutionary adaptation was demonstrated. Here’s how the paper ended:
The rapid spread of an initially unique haplotype, driven by strong positive selection, is expected to generate the profile of linkage disequilibrium we have observed, establishing that UK industrial melanism in the peppered moth was seeded by a single recent mutation that spread to most parts of mainland Britain and also colonized the Isle of Man (fig. S4). Paradoxically, although thecarbonaria [black] morph is now strongly disadvantageous and consequently rare in the United Kingdom, the rapidity of its decline has minimized the eroding effect of typica [white] introgression on the molecular footprint of strongly positive selection created during its ascendency….
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