Abstract

Melanic and typical morphs of Biston betularius (L.), Oligia latruncula (D. & S.) and 0. strigilis (L.) made choices between vertical trunks and horizontal branches, sprayed with white and black paints, in a transparent plastic cylinder in natural illumination. The moths settled in exposed positions. In neither Biston nor Oligia did the choice for white/black backgrounds differ between the morphs. Biston moths settle on narrow branches (not on twigs) with the body at right angles to the longitudinal axis of the branch. The Oligias showed an asymmetrical light reaction: one eye is kept in shadow so that they settle as a continuation of an irregularity of the surface, often of a lichen.

In nature, Biston betularius probably rests high up in the canopies, on the under surfaces of horizontal branches. The visual selection acting on the morphs is expected to be less intensive than that measured on tree trunks. The mark-release-recapture results of Kettlewell (1955a, 1956) do not show any qualitative change during the self-determination of the moths but the material is too limited for firm conclusions.

Newly-hatched Biston males take off straight from the trunk where they have expanded their wings but the females may climb higher in the tree. A hypothesis is presented to explain the black-and-white coloration of f. carbonaria: the short-winged moths climbing up the trunks might deter bird predation.

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