China has added a further seven new species to the known types of micro-snails. The major discovery was made by an amateur Hungarian shell collector, András Hunyadi, while on expedition to Guangxi — a region of southern China.
Hunyadi collected five samples, which he sent to Barna Páll-Gergely — an expert in the land snail family tree. While sorting through the dirt in search of specimens, Páll-Gergely found there were seven new species of micro-snail that are also the smallest land-snails ever discovered.
Páll-Gergely told National Geographic:
As soon as I saw it, I knew I was looking at a new species.
“Whatever they were, nothing like them had been reported from China.”
Angustopila dominikae is so small you could fit 10 of them in the eye of a needle. They are less than 0.03 inch (0.86mm) tall, and were found at the bottom of a limestone hill. Páll-Gergely’s study was published in the journal ZooKeys.
Watch Angustopila dominikae, the world’s smallest land snail:
The snail is light gray, with a round, delicate whirl structure, and probably spends its life clinging to limestone cliffs, according to researchers. In the study, researchers also took the time to discuss challenges faced by scientists, surveying small molluscs since finding any living specimens is still very difficult. This being why the evolutionary relationships between these species, as well as the number of existing species, are little known.
“Extremes in body size of organisms not only attract attention from the public, but also incite interest regarding their adaptation to their environment,” the research paper said.
“Investigating tiny-shelled land snails is important for assessing biodiversity and natural history, as well as for establishing the foundation for studying the evolution of dwarfism in invertebrate animals.
“We hope that these results provide the taxonomic groundwork for future studies concerning the evolution of dwarfism in invertebrates,” the researchers added.
See the world’s smallest known microsnail found in China:
To identify them as new species, researchers looked at various heights, widths, number of shell swirls, and shapes of shell openings. What makes it easier is the fact that micro-snails cannot move very far, so scientists know that even if two identical-looking shells are found at different places, they are likely to be separate species.