What Is the Progress Towards Understanding the Selection Webs Influencing Melanic Polymorphisms in Insects?

  • P. M. Brakefield


Industrial melanism refers to a correlation between high frequencies of melanic forms of an insect and regions of industrialization. This phenomenon in the peppered moth Biston betularia (L.) is the classic textbook example of the evolution of an adaptive trait in response to a changing environments involving the spread of adapted pheno-types by natural selection. The accounts include information about the central hypothesis of a change in the relative crypsis of non-melanic and melanic phenotypes due to blackening of the resting background of the moths by industrial air pollution. The entomologist, J.W. Tutt, writing at the end of the last century, presented particularly graphic descriptions of the essential features of this hypothesis (e.g. Tutt 1896). We can now ask: how much further have we actually progressed in our understanding since then and what has the theory of population genetics contributed to this understanding?


Visual Selection Foliose Lichen Fruticose Lichen Melanic Form Pepper Moth 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. M. Brakefield
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Evolutionary BiologyRU LeidenLeidenThe Netherlands

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