Wednesday, 1 October 2008

A hundred up. Well, nearly...

I know I've mentioned, and indeed pictured, the famous Peppered Moth before. But here's another outing for it, to mark today's status as the International Day of Elderly People. I don't quite qualify for that, yet (see my exciting profile, left below), but it's getting closer. Anyway, I managed to sneak a bit about the Peppered Moth's distinguished place in gerontology and specifically the study of centenarians into the Guardian today. Rather than repeat it, here's the link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2008/oct/01/healthandwellbeing.genetics. I was very pleased to find that all the moth people involved reacted extremely speedily, from Mark Parsons of Butterfly (and moth) Conservation and Ben Sherwood of the Linnean Society to the guru Dr Mike Majerus who is mentioned in the piece. He's also the author of the new Moths volume in the wonderful Collins New Naturalist series. He's done Ladybirds too, making him one of the few NN 'double' authors. My hero Prof Edmund Ford was another, writing both the original Moths, plus his great contribution, Butterflies. The other thing about the Peppered Moth is that it stars on innumerable internet references through its unsought role in the debate about 'creationism', in which opinions tend to be firm and furious. Dr Majerus has somewhat undermined the creationist belief that Peppered Moths are not found on tree trunks (relevant to the debate via the evolution of camouflage). In the most recent reference I found yesterday, his tally of such finds was 47.

3 comments:

Christine Alvin said...

Coincidence - our last blog entry(friendsofbuckwood.blogspot.com)features Norman's photos of a Peppered moth caterpillar mimicking an entire birch tree, a little known example of superb camouflage. And the stuff of nightmares, tree-sized caterpillars!
Calvin

MartinWainwright said...

Excellent! I shall have a look in a mo - I'm just whizzing North from King's Cross and hereby pay tribute to National Express railways for their FREE (and very efficient and fast) WiFi. However, there are no moths on the train, at least not that I've discovered.

Christine Alvin said...

Of course,none of the arguments about the evolution of the different shades of peppered moths take into account that the predators could still find the dark moths despite their camouflage because of their constant hacking smog-provoked coughs. However this was, to some extent, counterbalanced by the number of predators (including bats) who were unable to find their way around in the smog and smoke and inadvertently knocked themselves out on sturdy northern oak tree trunks, thus becoming prey for wily feral cats.
Calvin