Abstract Snails in the genus Littorina (Gastropoda, Prosobranchia) were examined in an area of mangroves in Papua New Guinea. It is shown that these may be separated into three species belonging to the L. scabra complex. Two of the species live on the roots only while the third is restricted to the leaves. The root species are monomorphic and cryptic and co-exist with three other monomorphic cryptic species of snails. The leaf species is polymorphic. This is a particularly clear-cut case of the tendency seen in gastropods for species of dark, uniform habitats to be monomorphic, while those on bright, patterned foliage backgrounds are polymorphic. It is suggested that the polymorphism is maintained by resemblance of the morphs to different elements in the mangrove foliage background, which are present at rather constant frequencies over a wide area.