Natural selection and the distribution of shell colour morphs in three species of Littoraria (Gastropoda: Littorinidae) in Moreton Bay, Queensland
The distribution of yellow, brown and red morphs of sympatric species of Littoraria were recorded on mangrove trees of the genus Avicennia within Moreton Bay, Queensland. The roles of background mimicry (leaf vs. bark, dark vs. light), niche selection and thermal tolerance (sunny vs. shaded positions and height above ground) were examined. The yellow advantage found previously in the area was tested. Total yellow morph frequency adjusted to a reduction in leaf background on pruned trees. Morph frequencies in Littoraria species reflect differences in habitat use. L. filosa (high yellow frequency) was more frequently found on leaves at the highest tree levels, while L. luteola (high brown frequency) was more frequently found on branches at lower levels. It is therefore argued that morphs mimic background elements. Previously reported niche selection by yellow and brown morphs of leaf and bark backgrounds is shown to be a result of the distribution of L. luteola on branches and L. filosa on leaves. At warmer times of the year, yellow L. filosa were more common in sunny positions; this is thought to be a result of thermal tolerance. There appears to be some advantage to particular morphs on particular tree types, but this relationship needs to be examined further. Mangrove-dwelling Littoraria are a promising model to investigate molluscan polymorphism. In the past, erroneous identification of sympatric species may have influenced the accuracy of reported patterns. We used allozyme electrophoretic markers as a precise identification technique.
Biological Journal of the Linnean Society