National Geographic

The Predicted Tattoo (Science Ink Sunday)

Darwin-moth-400Daniella Perry writes,

This is an image of a hawk moth and Darwin’s orchid. It spoke to me for its history, beauty, and simplicity, as well as its significance in demonstrating the predictive power of Darwin’s theory of evolution by means of natural selection. This orchid (Angraecum sesquipedale) is endemic to Madagascar and has an unusually long spur (20-35cm), where it keeps its nectar. Charles Darwin predicted in 1862 that even though a moth with an equally lengthy proboscis had not yet been discovered, one must exist in order to pollinate the orchid. Alfred R. Wallace supported this hypothesis in an 1867 paper. The moth, Xanthopan morganii [praedicta] was discovered in Madagascar in 1903, well after both men had passed.

I have been a lover of biology practically since birth. I got a BS in Physiological Science and am now completing a PhD in History of Science. While my specific work is not in the history of biology and evolution, it’s my A-#1 nerd passion (well… a tie with science fiction). A little less quietly, I’m a little proud of myself for getting this beauty in Texas, the week the State Board of Education asked a panel of reviewers (many of whom believe in or are sympathetic to creationism) to review biology textbooks.

The BBC told the story of this remarkable moth (and remarkable prediction) in their show, Museum of Life: 

You can see the rest of the Science Tattoo Emporium here or in my book, Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed(The paperback edition comes out in May; you can pre-order here.)

(Tattoo artist: El Sando at Dovetail Tattoo, Austin, TX)

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