Microevolution or macroevolution?
For years the story of the peppered moth, Biston betularia, has provided one of the best-known examples of natural selection in action. ... What we do know is that the rise and fall of dark-colored moths, a phenomenon known as "industrial melanism," remains a striking and persuasive example of natural selection in action. What we have to be cautious about is attributing 100% of the work of natural selection in this case to the camouflage of the moths and their direct visibility to birds.
The [peppered moth] experiments beautifully demonstrate natural selection or survival of the fittest - in action, but they do not show evolution in progress, for however the population may alter... all the moths remain from beginning to end, Biston betularia.
Last week, the Manchester School of Art joined forces with the Manchester Museum to host a series of workshops for 10-14 year olds, exploring the significance of the Peppered Moth within a contemporary context. The aim of these workshops was to find creative ways for young people to discuss climate change and evolution.
Activities give an introduction to Charles Darwin and his theories of evolution.
The story of this experimental proof of evolutionary theory made its way into all the biology texts written since the 1950s when the results of this field experiment yielded such clear results. Students everywhere heard the story and learned Oh Happy Day - the theory of evolution was provable!
For decades the peppered moth has been a standard classroom and textbook example of evolution. Millions of students have learned this "living proof" of natural selection. The story they have been, and are, being told is most likely false, or to put it more mildly, filled with half-truths. This is not because teachers and writers are intentionally lying, or hiding and bending facts, but because the example is only brought to prove a point, so that complications appear extraneous to the argument.
Such obvious population changes over a relatively short period of time have made the peppered moth a textbook example of natural selection, but the genetic basis of the rise and fall of the dark form has not been understood. Previous evidence shows that the dark colouring isn't associated with any of the genetic pathways already known to cause melanism in insects, and it was unclear whether the moth's dark form had arisen several times or just once.