Abstract Along the coastal plain of Israel, shell darkness of the polymorphic land snail Xeropicta vestalis is positively related to the extent of perennial vegetation. It is not related to rain, temperature, geographic position or darkness of the ground. White shells reflect more radiation than dark ones do, and therefore in Israel's coastal plain, where solar radiation is very strong, they are favoured. Perennial vegetation, where it occurs, shields the snails from the sun by absorbing radiation, so that snails amongst them can afford to be darker, and thus more cryptic. Hence, the more perennial vegetation in the habitat, the darker the shells. Also during the Pleistocene, when temperatures were 5–10 °C lower than today, the shells of the coastal plain were as pale as recent ones are. The distribution of a snail-predator, Gerbillus allenbyi, which is restricted to sandy biotopes where perennial bushes occur, and which was absent from Israel during the Pleistocene, could perhaps explain the distribution of X. vestalis morphs, both today and in the past.