Researchers in Borneo were stunned to find this amazingly tiny snail, which smashes previous records.
Researchers in Borneo were stunned to discover a snail that has broken records for the smallest living creature of its kind. According to a report from CBS News, the snail is shiny, translucent, and has an average height of just 0.027 inches.
The field of studying tiny snails has taken off in recent years. The recently discovered specimen is just a tenth of a millimeter shorter than the previous smallest snail, the Chinese Angustopila dominikae.
The snail was discovered by Dutch and Malaysian researchers, and was named Acmella nana, referring to the Latin term for “dwarf.” The snail is so tiny that researchers needed a handheld microscope to observe it in the wild.
The limestone hills of Borneo are a perfect habitat for snails, which make their shells out of calcium carbonate. According to co-author Menno Schilthuizen, a professor of evolution from Leiden University in the Netherlands, the researchers simply gathered soil samples and scanned them for evidence of snails afterward.
The soil samples were dumped into a bucket of water, and the shells floated to the top. The researchers sorted the snails under a microscope, and it was only recently that they found the new microscopic species in one of their samples.
Researchers don’t know what Acmella nana eats, nor has one ever been seen alive in the wild. Similar species have been found to eat bacteria and fungi that grow on the surface of limestone in caves. Schilthuizen believes that the new species probably has a similar diet.
As Borneo’s limestone hills come under threat from development projects that seek to raze the environment for cement, it becomes increasingly important to research as much of the wildlife there as possible. Snails play an important ecological role, and are responsible for decaying dead organic matter and returning nutrients to the soil.
A press release outlining the details of the study can be found here.