Get access

Change and stability in a steep morph-frequency cline in the snail Cepaea nemoralis (L.) over 43 years



Populations of the polymorphic land snail Cepaea nemoralis (L.) from Deepdale, Derbyshire, UK, sampled in 1965–67, showed a pattern of area effects, with steep clines among groups of populations differing in shell colour and banding morph frequencies. In 2010, most of these populations were resampled. In particular, a continuous transect made in 1967 of 42 quadrats (18.34 × 18.34 m) across a steep cline in several morph frequencies was completely resampled. In the dale as a whole, yellow shells had increased in frequency. In the transect, the frequencies of banding morphs showed no significant changes, although colour morphs showed some changes. Pink shells had increased in frequency in a section in which scrub had developed, and brown shells had increased in frequency in the area in which they had originally been at the highest frequency. In each case, the selection coefficients were of the order of 4%. Yellow had increased elsewhere. Nevertheless, both in the dale as a whole and in the transect, the pattern of geographical change in morph frequencies had remained essentially the same. Estimates of migration based on previous studies of marked snails and on modelling of the effect of drift and migration suggest that, regardless of whether the cline is a product of differential selection or of the gradual merging of previously separate founding populations, it has been in existence for a long time, and that migration occurs over greater distances than estimated from direct observation on marked snails. Although we can demonstrate that selection has occurred, the origin and maintenance of the cline and others similar to it remain in doubt; the development and maintenance of polymorphism in this species may require consideration of several processes operating on different time scales. © 2012 The Linnean Society of London