Non-Fiction Books:

Melanism: Evolution in Action


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Melanism: Evolution in Action by Michael E. N. Majerus
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Melanism: Evolution in Action describes investigations into a ubiquitous biological phenomenon, the existence of dark, or melanic, forms of many species of mammals, insects, and some plants. Melanism is a particularly exciting phenomenon in terms of our understanding of evolution. Unlike many other polymorphisms, the rise of a melanic population within a species is a visible alteration. Not only this, but melanism may sometimes occur dramatically quickly compared to other evolutionary change. Examples of melanism include one of the most famous illustrations of Darwinian natural selection, the peppered moth. This book, the first written on melanism since 1973, gives a lucid and up-to-date appraisal of the subject. The book is divided into ten chapters. The first four chapters place melanism into its historical and scientific context, with illustrations of its occurrence, and physical and genetic properties. Chapters 5-9 look in more detail at melanism in moths and ladybirds, explaining the diversity of evolutionary reasons for melanism, and the complexities underlying this apparently simple phenomenon. The final chapter shows how the study of melanism has contibuted to our understanding of biological evolution as a whole. Written in an engaging and readable style, by an author whose enthusiasm and depth of knowledge is apparent throughout, this book will be welcomed by all students and researchers in the fields of evolution, ecology, entomology, and genetics. It will also be of relevance to professional and amateur entomologists and lepidopterists alike.

Author Biography

Michael Majerus began collecting butterflies and moths when he was four. His fascination with this group, and in particular their value in studying evolution, has spanned almost forty years, and dominated his professional career. He has written over 100 scientific papers and three books on these subjects, and regularly appears on television and radio. A fellow of Clare College, Cambridge, he currently works as a lecturer in the Department of Genetics at the University of Cambridge, where he is researching melanic polymorphism in moths and ladybirds. Michael Majerus, Department of Genetics, Downing St., Cambridge, CB2 3EH. Tel. 01223-333983; Fax. 01223-333992; email:
Release date NZ
December 1st, 1997
Country of Publication
United Kingdom
11 pp plates, halftones, line figures, tables
Oxford University Press
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