Thomas presents the peppered moth as an emblem of natural selection, tracking its adaptations during the Industrial Revolution and beyond.
The moth’s striking salt-and-pepper scales, which enhanced its camouflage during daytime rests on lichen, became an impediment as late-19th-century industrial pollution prevailed. As lichens died and industrial soot blackened tree bark, the species’ occasional dark moth’s advantages resulted in an adaptation. With the light, speckled moths more easily spotted and eaten by prey, surviving dark moths procreated, dominating the species within a 50-year time span. In turn, the answering trend toward pollution mitigation swung the pendulum back. Lichens reappeared, soot-stained bark fell away, and the light moths’ camouflage value reasserted itself, with both dark and light moths seen today. Thomas narrates this biological success story in past tense and simple, declarative prose. Egnéus’ lovely illustrations—in traditional mixed media and Photoshop—provide a stylized overview of the moth’s adaptive journey. The bilateral symmetry of the peppered moth’s wing coloration is ignored in favor of exquisite, dark umber–and-gray montages evoking dry-brushed ink blots and sun-dappled botanical silhouettes. Forest tableaux yield to industrialization’s coal-powered factories and locomotives, Egnéus’ palette morphs from natural hues to rust-red and soot-black—and back, to today’s tentative, hopeful blues. (Depicted humans are light-skinned and red-nosed.) An inspired choice for text type (Tom’s New Roman) and a gorgeous, silver-embellished cover enhance the package.
A fascinating story with striking visuals. (author’s note) (Informational picture book. 5-9)