Moth Coloration and Natural Selection


This data was collected by J.A. Bishop. Bishop selected seven locations progressively farther from Liverpool. At each location, Bishop chose eight trees at random. Equal number of dead (frozen) light (Typicals) and dark (Carbonaria) moths were glued to the trunks in lifelike positions. After 24 hours, a count was taken of the numbers of each morph that had been removed—presumably by predators.




A data frame with 14 observations on the following 4 variables.


Morph, a factor with levels "light" and "dark"


Distance from Liverpool (in km)


Number of moths placed


Number of moths removed


Population geneticists consider clines particularly favourable situations for investigating evolutionary phenomena. A cline is a region where two colour morphs of one species arrange themselves at opposite ends of an environmental gradient, with increasing mixtures occurring between. Such a cline exists near Liverpool, England, where a dark morph of a local moth has flourished in response to the blackening of tree trunks by air pollution from the mills. The moths are nocturnal, resting during the day on tree trunks, where their coloration acts as camouflage against predatory birds. In Liverpool, where tree trunks are blackened by smoke, a high percentage of the moths are of the dark morph. One encounters a higher percentage of the typical (pepper–and–salt) morph as one travels from the city into the Welsh countryside, where tree trunks are lighter. J.A. Bishop used this cline to study the intensity of natural selection.


Ramsey, F.L. and Schafer, D.W. (2002). The Statistical Sleuth: A Course in Methods of Data Analysis (2nd ed), Duxbury.


Bishop, J.A. (1972). An Experimental Study of the Cline of Industrial Melanism in Biston betularia [Lepidoptera] Between Urban Liverpool and Rural North Wales, Journal of Animal Ecology 41: 209–243.



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