Peppered Moth extinction – let’s celebrate!

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I’ve been enjoying Martin Wainwright’s blog (Martin’s Moths) – lots of mothy goodness but also examples and anecdotes about how moths are perceived in a wider cultural context. Martin’s day job is as northern editor for the Guardian, and his latest blog post links to one of his articles, where he correlates the news that more people are living to a hundred with the decline in the melanic form of the Peppered Moth. It’s a fascinating read, and full marks to Martin for getting some proper moth science into a national newspaper article.

However, the language used implies that the decline of the melanic Peppered Moth might be something to worry about – Martin’s article says that the decline “looks terminal” and talks of “extinction” of the melanic form, and I’ve noticed similar language in other articles. I’m not sure what it means to say that a genetic variety of a moth is extinct – presumably the form could reappear if conditions change again (e.g. if sooty pollution were to return)? And in any case, the loss of this form is all good news isn’t it – the reduction in this form of pollution is surely a success story? And the Peppered Moth as a species is still doing okay, thankfully.

There’s plenty of actual species that are declining fast, but the evolution of Peppered Moth forms is something to celebrate for once!

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