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Subject: Moths and feathers

Moths and feathers

From: Jan Erik Bergh <jeb>
Date: Friday, February 26, 1999
Caroline Finch <ycrnp64 [at] ucl__ac__uk> writes

>I am a final year conservation student currently doing research into
>the deterioration and conservation of feathers. During my research,
>I have encountered differing opinions as to what exactly the clothes
>moth (Lepidoptera tineidae) is after when it attacks a feather and
>"eats" its keratin structure. Some suggest it is the keratin, while
>others believe the moth eats the keratin in order to obtain the
>salts and oils which are on the surface.

A couple of answers have appeared, though not dealing with the
original question. As far as I understand you are talking about the
common clothes moth, Tineola bisselliella or the case-bearing
clothes moth, Tinea pellionella or maybe both of them. I think the
question you rise is interesting and I suppose you have gone through
all available original papers on the subject.

Though I have not had time to do that myself, I would like to put
forward a hypothesis from an evolutionary point of view. All living
creatures have an energy budget, which should be used in such a way
that it will increase the chances of the genes to survive and be
found in the next generation. Then, if the moths didn't need to eat
the keratin, why should they waste energy in chewing this rather
hard stuff, when it probably could get salts and oils in an easier
way? There is one more point, and that is that it takes also amino
acids (the building blocks of protein) to build up an insect, so
what would be the protein source if not keratin?

I'm looking forward to see your conclusions when you have gone
through all aspects! Best wishes,

Jan-Erik Bergh
Swedish Working Group PRE-MAL

                  Conservation DistList Instance 12:71
                 Distributed: Wednesday, March 3, 1999
                       Message Id: cdl-12-71-002
Received on Friday, 26 February, 1999

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