Thursday, March 15, 2012

Selection in Action

Photo was taken with an iPhone 4

Look carefully at the photo above.  Do you see the moth clinging to the petal of the Indian blanket flower?  When I noticed the moth the first thing that popped into my mind was, “selection in action.”  Perfectly camouflaged, the moth will remain unseen by most predators that might come close.  Imagine if the moth had been white or black or green.  It would be spotted and eaten.  But because this moth blends so precisely with the flower it will survive and thus, in the grand scheme of life, will be “selected for.”  In other words, this moth will live to reproduce.  This brings to mind the famous study of the moth species in England that came in two colors, white and black.  White had been the predominant moth color but a small number of black moths had remained in the general population.  Because soot from nearby coal burning turned the previously whitish tree bark in the surrounding forest a nearly black color, the white moths that had been prevalent (because they remained unseen on the bark) were easily spotted by predators.  They were therefore consumed.  But because the black moths were now hard to spot they began to proliferate in numbers.  And thus the black moths were now “selected for” over the white moths.  The same principal applies to the moth in the photo.  Yes, selection in action!  I see it every day—whether watching cows grazing a field and eating certain plants while leaving others to multiply (selecting for the plants not consumed) or as the photo of the moth and the Indian blanket flower so clearly denotes.

iPhone 4 photo

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