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Thirty-four years of climatic selection in the land snail Theba pisana.


ABSTRACT: Few continuous, long-term studies have measured the intensity and variability of natural selection within a framework of clear adaptive hypotheses. In the snail Theba pisana, the proportion of effectively unbanded shells is higher in exposed habitats than in adjacent acacia thickets, which has been explained by microclimatic selection. Comparisons across an ecotone for 34 consecutive years determined the combined effects on morph frequencies of habitat and changes in weather conditions during summer. The long-term average (±s.e.) frequency of effectively unbanded shells was 0.577±0.011 in the open habitat when compared with 0.353±0.005 in the acacia. The persistent association of shell banding with habitat accounted for 34% of the variation in morph frequencies. Differences among years were also large, representing 23% of the variation. Higher proportions of effectively unbanded snails were associated with hotter, sunnier summers. Thus, temporal variation supports the hypothesis of microclimatic selection, consistent with the spatial association with habitat. Based on observed rates of change, the mean annual selection on this polymorphism was about 0.13, but with a large variance: s was as high as 0.5, but ?0.05 in about 40% of the years. The large variance and frequent reversals in direction of selection indicate a potential for rapid genetic change, but with little net change in morph frequencies over three decades, highlighting the value of long-term continuous studies of populations facing natural environmental variation.

SUBMITTER: Johnson MS 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC3186227 | BioStudies | 2011-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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