Industrial Melanism in British Peppered Moths Has a Singular and Recent Mutational Origin

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Science  20 May 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6032, pp. 958-960
DOI: 10.1126/science.1203043

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The rapid spread of a novel black form (known as carbonaria) of the peppered moth Biston betularia in 19th-century Britain is a textbook example of how an altered environment may produce morphological adaptation through genetic change. However, the underlying genetic basis of the difference between the wild-type (light-colored) and carbonaria forms has remained unknown. We have genetically mapped the carbonaria morph to a 200-kilobase region orthologous to a segment of silkworm chromosome 17 and show that there is only one core sequence variant associated with the carbonaria morph, carrying a signature of recent strong selection. The carbonaria region coincides with major wing-patterning loci in other lepidopteran systems, suggesting the existence of basal color-patterning regulators in this region.

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