Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A Moth And Donald Trump Share The Same Hair Style?

Looking around ourselves at our environment, one cannot help but be amazed at the diversity that exists in nature.  Yet, endangered species are on the rise over the last few decades.  How do certain species survive and others die out?  A well known theory exists to account for that phenomenon in biology and was discovered by Charles Darwin.  The theory of evolution by natural selection.  A general description of the theory is provided by Prof. Philip McClean of North Dakota State University:

Darwin's Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection. More individuals are produced each generation that can survive. Phenotypic variation exists among individuals and the variation is heritable. Those individuals with heritable traits better suited to the environment will survive.

He also provides a direct quote from Charles Darwin on his site:

Variation is a feature of natural populations and every population produces more progeny than its environment can manage. The consequences of this overproduction is that those individuals with the best genetic fitness for the environment will produce offspring that can more successfully compete in that environment. Thus the subsequent generation will have a higher representation of these offspring and the population will have evolved.

Since over production exists in a given population, only individuals with the best genetic fitness will survive.   After reading the above excerpts, one cannot help but asking the following question regarding "genetic fitness":

What is "genetic fitness"?

In the blog post below (which I promise to be short), I will provide an emerging example of what is "genetic fitness" with examples from the present environment.

Genetic Fitness

I decided to type into a search engine the two words "genetic fitness" and hit enter.  The first entry off of '' was the following definition of "Genetic Fitness" from the website '':

The reproductive success of a genotype, usually measured as the number of offspring produced by an individual that survive to reproductive age relative to the average for the population. 

If you are unfamiliar with terms commonly used in biology, then you might be wondering what is a "genotype".  A "genotype" is defined on the same website "" as the following:

1. the genetic makeup of an organism or group of organisms with reference to a single trait, set of traits, or an entire complex of traits.
2. the sum total of genes transmitted from parent to offspring.

The genetic make up of an organism is rather obscure when teasing out the meaning in relation to the above concept of 'natural selection'.  Genes are the code that is read to express proteins and on a higher level organ formation.  Your genetic makeup is the instruction by which you are made.  In your genetic makeup, for example, is coded the color of your hair along with other traits (eye color, ear size, foot size, etc.).  These are unique to your genetic makeup.

In relation to the theory of natural selection, those species with the strongest traits will survive generations.  Another example: if a population is selective to only people with brown hair over the course of generations, then a person with blond hair will not survive in that specific population.

A common example given in biology lectures is that of the 'peppered moth'.  The image below is taken from the website "" shows two types of moths:

In the image above, one moth is black, whereas the other is peppered black and white.  The historical account during the 'Industrial Age' (in Europe) which ties into natural selection is described below:

Peppered Moths are normally white with black speckles across the wings, giving it its name. This patterning makes it well camouflaged against lichen-covered tree trunks when it rests on them during the day. There is also a naturally occurring genetic mutation which causes some moths to have almost black wings. These black forms (called 'melanic') are not as well camouflaged on the lichen as normal 'peppered' forms and so they are more likely to be eaten by birds and other predators. This means that fewer black forms survive to breed and so they are less common in the population than the paler peppered forms. This is the normal situation observed in the countryside of Britain and Ireland.

Normal and Melanic Peppered Moths (Chris Manley)However, in the nineteenth century it was noticed that in towns and cities it was actually the black form of the moth that was more common than the pale peppered form. Industrialisation and domestic coal fires had caused sooty air pollution which had killed off lichens and blackened urban tree trunks and walls. So now it was the pale form of the moth that was more obvious to predators, while the melanic form was better camouflaged and more likely to survive and produce offspring. As a result, over successive generations, the black moths came to outnumber the pale forms in our towns and cities. Since moths are short-lived, this evolution by natural selection happened quite quickly. For example, the first black Peppered Moth was recorded in Manchester in 1848 and by 1895 98% of Peppered Moths in the city were black.

Clearly, during the Industrial Age, the moth which was covered in soot that resembled a 'black moth' was preferentially chosen by natural selection to survive generations.  Sadly, the peppered moth has been in decline over the last century.  The above example illustrates that during a certain time period, one trait in a moth (color - black) was more 'genetically fit' than the other color pattern (black and white mixed).

Now that we have a grasp on the genetic fitness of a species in relation to the theory of natural selection, lets look at a recent example of a genetic trait which has been successful.  The example is currently of great interest in the popular news.

Current Example of Genetic Fitness

 Recently, scientists have discovered a new moth in Baja, California (USA).  The importance of the moth lies in a trait which might have been selected over the course of generations (who knows?).  An article appeared on the website "" titled "Donald Trump Moth Inspired by Yellow Head, Increasing Conservation Awareness" bringing awareness to the original paper which was presented in the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."  The work was introduced by the author in the following excerpt:

Donald J. Trump, to be sworn in as the 45th President of the U.S.A. on Friday, is the namesake of a new species of twirler moth found in California and Baja.

Neopalpa donaldtrumpi, stands out for the yellowish-white scales on its head, according to the paper unveiling the new moth in the journal ZooKeys. That coloration was part of the inspiration of linking it to the new American leader.

“The specific epithet is selected because of the resemblance of the scales on the frons (head) of the moth to Mr. Trump’s hairstyle,” the paper posits.

 The author proceeds to tell the significance of the naming of the new species after our new leader (new President):

“By naming this species after the 45th President of the United States, I hope to bring some public attention to, and interest in, the importance of alpha-taxonomy in better understanding the neglected micro-fauna component of North American biodiversity.”

Neopalpa donaldtrumpi was discovered when Nazari “stumbled across” specimens among material stored at the Bohart Museum of Entomology at the University of California Davis. The samples were distinct enough from another species, Neopalpa neonata, even though they share the same habitat, to justify naming the new critter, the author contends.

Ironically, the trait resembles another species with the same dominant trait -- President-elect Donald Trump.  The dominant trait turns out to be his hair style.  President-elect Trump's hair style has been his dominant trait over decades of building his business empire.  And throughout his campaign for office, his hair-style has brought him fame and success -- again a dominant trait which has won him visibility.  Here is a photo of President-elect Trump's hair-style from his 'Twitter' page below:

Now, lets compare that to the photographs provided in the article above shown below:

Source: Vazrick Nazari

If a side by side comparison is needed to drive home the point, I found a photograph in an article on the website "" titled "Moth with 'golden flake hairstyle' named after Donald Trump" which is shown below:

Source: Vazrick Nazari/Getty Images

Upon inspection of the above images, the similar traits are pretty clear.  Which leads us to believe that the dominant trait or genetically fit trait of the 'golden flaky hair style' is a trait that might be conserved.  At least for the moth named neopalpa donaldtrumpi -- this seems to be the case.


A short lessen on the theory of natural selection has revealed that dominant traits are good to pass onto successive generations for survival.  In the blog post above, a moth species named neopalpa donaldtrumpi has been found that carries a "genetically fit" trait of "golden flaky hair" similar to our upcoming President (in a couple of days).  We have yet to see how successful the dominant trait is for Donald Trump.   The following questions remain to be answered:

Will the realization of a shared "trait" inspire President-elect to have a new found appreciation for nature?

Will that same realization result in an increase in science funding to study the moth in greater detail?

What broader implications will this naming have on science funding?

Will the trait last?  

Will one of his children take on the successful hairstyle?  

Who knows?

Hopefully, the answers to these questions result in a greater appreciation for the need to study nature.  That will entail more money being devoted toward science research.  With the discovery and naming of the new moth with traits similar to our new leader, this is exciting.  Stay tuned for updates as they arrive in my e-mail box 'hot off the press.'

Until next time, Have a great day!


  1. Can you source that Darwin quote? It is unsourced on the site you cite, and I cannot verify it.

    1. Hello Rich,

      I have written Professor McClean a short request for the citation of the quote on his site. I will forward you his reply when received. Thank you for your insightful eye. Have a good day.



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