Another find has made it that Borneo is home to the tiniest snail in the world, breaking the previously set record.
- Researchers found 48 new species of microsnails
- This included the smallest one yet, called Acmella nana
- Acmella nana (‘nanus’ means ‘dwarf’ in Latin) stands at 0.66 millimeters
- The former record-holder was Angustopila dominikae, at 0.86 millimeters
The team of researchers ventured through the limestone hills of Asia’s Malay Archipelago, in Borneo, collecting soil, and sampling the varied species of microsnails they could find. They are an exceptionally difficult species to find. Due to their size, scientists rarely find the actual snail. The shells, however, are easier to trace.
According to Menno Schilthuizen, professor of evolution from Leiden University, they collected soil, leaf litter, and dust from underneath the limestone cliffs. Those are areas likely to be scattered with species of tiny snails, due to the fact that they contain the calcium the small creatures need for their shells. They scrape off bits of the limestone with their mouths.
They sieved the contents of their findings by pouring down water. It made sure that the heavier material went to the bottom, while the minute, air-filled shells floated to the top. After placing them all underneath the microscope, they found 48 new species of microsnails. This including the smallest one ever found.
Acmella nana is the new record keeper, found in the limestone caves of Boreno. The tiny species stands at an average of 0.66 millimeters (less than 0.02 inches). That’s the same amount as five strands of human hair placed together. It has deemed it as the smallest snail ever discovered, topping Angustopila dominikae, which stood at 0.86 millimeters.
Due to the fact that it’s significantly difficult to find the actual snail, scientists are required to resort to estimations. For example, it’s difficult to ascertain what the microscopic creatures munch on. Other species often feed on bacteria and fungus in the limestone caves. It was assumed that A. nana did the same.
The tiny snail’s shell also presented with a door-like opening called operculum. Its presence indicated a possible ability of breathing underwater, which would be useful dwelling on the wet rocks within the Borneo cave. However, it’s highly uncommon. Its incredibly fragile body makes it an exceptional feat to withstand breathing under water.
Besides the record-breaking A. nana, researchers also found an additional 47 species of tiny snails. It once again proved the beautiful diversity of Borneo, hidden among limestone rocks. It’s likely that no more information will follow about their lives until an actual snail will be found. The shells can only tell them so much.
However, according to Schilthuizen, this proves that there is so much more about biodiversity that we don’t understand or even know. And, because these microsnails feed on dead or decaying matter, they’re an important part of the ecosystem.