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Borneo Snails Break Record For Smallest Land Snail Species, Researchers Say

Nov 04, 2015 11:24 AM EST
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This has been a big year for tiny snails! A team of Dutch and Malaysian biologists have set a new record for the world's smallest land snail. This finding follows a similar discovery made earlier this year in China. At the time, those shells represented the tiniest land snail species known to date; however, the newly discovered shells found in Borneo have shattered the record.  

The tiny Borneo shells, Acmella nana, were found among 47 other new species of snails varying greatly in size. The smallest measured between 0.50 and 0.60 mm in width and between 0.60 and 0.79 mm in height. The previous record holders, Angustopila dominikae, where unearthed in southern China and measured just 0.80 and 0.89 mm respectively, according to a news release.

Researchers noted that seven of the 48 new species can only be found on the 4,095-metre-high Mount Kinabalu. While another one of the snails, Diplommatina tylocheilos, can only be found at the entrance of the hardly accessible Loloposon Cave in Mount Trusmadi. This explains why some of the newly identified snails have remained hidden and unknown to scientists for so long. Overall, this finding sheds light on isolated and endemic species noted.

Snails are known for their "sluggish" pace, so it is easy for them to get stuck within small patches of a habitat, keeping them from the rest of the world, and allowing them to evolve quickly and adapt to a particular particular area. Because of this, the snails are the perfect example of how an endemic species can arise.

Isolation is not always a good thing. In fact, the snails are increasingly more vulnerable to catastrophic events such as wildfires.

"A blazing forest fire at Loloposon Cave could wipe out the entire population of Diplommatina tylocheilos," Menno Schilthuizen, co-author of the recent study, explained in the release.

The findings were recently published in the journal ZooKeys.

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