Researchers said that the newly found specimen, which is just 0.7 millimeter-wide, was not the only discovery made in East Malaysia also known as Malaysian Borneo. A joint team of Dutch and Malaysian biologists found 48 new species of snails. But the tinniest of them all caught everyone’s attention.
The team named the tiny snail Acmella nana, ‘nana’ derives from the Latin word ‘nanus’ which means ‘dwarf.’ The animal was first introduced to the public in the journal ZooKeys, where the former record-holder was also presented in September.
While the shell of the specimen found in China measured 0.86 in height and 0.80 in width, the new species has a shell that measures 0.60-0.79 and 0.50-0.60 mm respectively.
But some of the other 47 species were not new to researchers. Biologists had previous encounters with the animals in East Malaysia during their studies in past decades. But now it is the first time the team actually gets to give them scientific names. Yet, other snail species are completely new since many of them lead hidden lives on the mountaintops in Malaysian Borneo.
For example, researchers discovered seven new species on Mount Kinabalu, which is the highest mountain in Malaysia. Other species was found around Loloposon Cave, which is a site very hard to reach on Mount Trusmadi, the country’s second-highest mountain.
Researchers explained that the newly found snails can tell them more about species unique to a specific region, also known as endemic species. Plus, the small animals move really slowly, so they often settle in a single location where they choose to lead an isolated life.
There they can adapt to the environment without outside interference. This is why these snails can provide first-hand data on how endemic species emerge.
But living in isolated places and on restricted areas has its drawbacks. For instance, a forest fire at Loloposon Cave where Diplommatina tylocheilos was recently found could push the species on the verge of extinction. This is why snails should have high priority in conservationist efforts, Prof, Dr. Menno Schilthuizen explained.
Dr. Schilthuizen, and his fellow researchers, Thor-Seng Liew and Jaap Vermeulen, have been studying snails in Malaysia for more than two decades. In 2014, they found ten new species of “micro-jewel” snails.
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