AsianScientist (Oct. 2, 2015) – While examining soil samples collected from the base of limestone rocks in Guangxi Province, Southern China, scientists found several minute empty light grey shells, which measured an astounding height of less than 1 mm. Described in the journal ZooKeys, these minuscule snails defy current knowledge and scientific terminology about terrestrial “microsnails.”
The single known shell of Angustopila dominikae, named after the wife of the first author, was measured a mere 0.86 mm in shell height. It fits snugly into the eye of a needle. Thus, it is considered to be perhaps the world’s smallest land snail species, based on the longest diameter of the shell.
There are very few reported instances of species demonstrating this degree of tininess. The team have described a total of seven new minuscule land snail species in their paper. Two of the authors have previously described other species of tiny land snails from China and Korea in the same journal.
In their present paper, Dr. Barna Páll-Gergely and his team, from Shinshu University, also discussed the challenges faced by scientists surveying small mollusks, since finding living specimens is still very difficult. Thus, the evolutionary relationships between these species, as well as the number of existing species are yet 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,” remind the researchers.
“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,” they concluded.
Source: Pensoft Publishers.
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