Darwin’s Missing Evidence: Changes in Moths Observed

Kettlewell50 years after the original H. B. D. Kettlewell papers on natural selection and melanism in the peppered moth, the research remains an object of criticism and derision by skeptics of Darwin. Kettlewell in Scientific American:

[B]efore Darwin died in 1882, the most striking evolutionary change ever witnessed by man was taking place around him in his own country.

The change was simply this. Less than a century ago moths of certain species were characterized by their light coloration, which matched such backgrounds as light tree trunks and lichen-covered rocks, on which the moths passed the daylight hours sitting motionless. Today in many areas the same species are predominantly dark! We now call this reversal “industrial melanism.”

It happens that Darwin's lifetime coincided with the first great man-made change of environment on earth. Ever since the Industrial Revolution commenced in the latter half of the 18th century, large areas of the earth's surface have been contaminated by an insidious and largely unrecognized fallout of smoke particles. In and around industrial areas the fallout is measured in tons per square mile per month; in places like Sheffield in England it may reach 50 tons or more. It is only recently that we have begun to realize how widely the lighter smoke particles are dispersed, and to what extent they affect the flora and fauna of the countryside.

In the case of the flora the smoke particles not only pollute foliage but also kill vegetative lichens on the trunks and boughs of trees. Rain washes the pollutants down the boughs and trunks until they are bare and black. In heavily polluted districts rocks and the very ground itself are darkened.