, Volume 162, Issue 2, pp 172-178

Opioid systems, behavioral thermoregulation and shell polymorphism in the land snail, Cepaea nemoralis

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Numerous ecological studies have dealt with the shell color and banding polymorphism of the land snail Cepaea nemoralis. The present field and laboratory investigations focus on the roles of opioid systems in modulating the thermal preferences and behavioral thermoregulation of various morphological types of Cepaea. Evidence is presented that differences in opioid modulation of the thermal responses of Cepaea are associated with shell polymorphism. It is shown that the effects of the prototypic opiate agonist, morphine, and antagonist, naloxone, on behavioral thermoregulation in Cepaea vary with the shell banding pattern and thermal microhabitat. In both the field and laboratory, morphine (0.10, 1.0 and 10 μg per snail) caused significant dose- and time-dependent increases in the temperatures selected by various morphological types of Cepaea. The palest shell type (yellow, unbanded) with the highest basal preferred temperature displayed the greatest response to morphine, the shell type (yellow, 2-banded) with an intermediate basal preferred temperature showed an intermediate response to morphine, and the darkest shell type (yellow, 5-banded) with lowest basal preferred temperature showed the least increase in preferred temperature after administration of morphine. These effects of morphine were blocked and reversed by naloxone (1.0 μg), with the opiate antagonist by itself (1.0 and 10 μg) causing a significant decrease in behaviorally selected temperatures. The unbanded and 2-banded morphs displayed significantly greater decreases in preferred temperatures after treatment with naloxone than did the 5-banded morph, which showed minimal responses. It is suggested that these differences in opioid modulation of thermal preferences and behavioral thermoregulation may contribute to the polymorphic thermal preferences of natural populations of Cepaea.