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Peppered Moths and the Industrial Revolution

Barking up the Wrong Tree?


Author(s)

Avril M. Harder
Department of Biological Sciences
Purdue University
harder@purdue.edu
Janna R. Willoughby
School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences
Auburn University
jwilloughby@auburn.edu
Jaqueline M. Doyle
Department of Biological Sciences
Towson University
jdoyle@towson.edu

Abstract

This interrupted case study was written for students to gain a better understanding of evolutionary concepts and principles as they develop their skills in hypothesis creation, experimental design, and critical analysis of experimental assumptions. These skills are taught using a classic example of rapid adaptation: evolution of peppered moths in response to pollution-induced environmental changes. Students begin with a basic background to the peppered moth system, and then identify and evaluate specific assumptions of the methodology. Students also become familiar with the concept of selection and how this can be quantified. Finally, students are asked to apply these concepts of selection to design a novel experiment. Although the case has broad appeal, it was originally designed for evolution or ecology courses primarily comprised of biology majors.


Objectives

  • Understand how to construct a hypothesis and prediction using relevant background information.
  • Use experimental designs to identify inherent experimental assumptions.
  • Analyze data to quantify relevant evolutionary processes and evaluate conclusions based on these values.
  • Extend above knowledge to new system to evaluate potential evolutionary mechanisms.

Keywords

Adaptation; DNA; evolution; peppered moth; selection; lichen; camouflage; pollution; Industrial Revolution; Kettlewell; Majerus; cliff swallow; roadkill; wing length

Topical Areas

History of science, Scientific argumentation

Educational Level

Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division

Format

PDF

Type / Methods

Analysis (Issues), Interrupted

Language

English

Subject Headings

Biology (General)  |   Ecology  |   Genetics / Heredity  |   Evolutionary Biology  |   Science (General)  |  


Date Posted

4/29/2019

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