Scientists discover world’s tiniest snail species

Scientists have discovered the smallest known snail species in Borneo. The height of the creature’s translucent, white, shiny shell is just 0.7 millimeters or 0.027 inches. This makes the tiny mollusk around one-tenth of a millimeter smaller than the previous record holder.

The record of being the smallest snail earlier was with a Chinese snail species called Angustopila dominikae. The creature, which is currently the second smallest snail in the world, has an average shell height of 0.86 mm or 0.033 inches.

The newly identified itsy-bitsy snail has been named as Acmella Nana by the Malaysian and Dutch researchers. The species name of the creature (nana) has been derived from the Latin word nanus, which means dwarf. This tiny snail is so small that researchers had to use a microscope to spot it in the wild.

Here, it must be mentioned that the researchers were aware of the exact area to hunt for unidentified mollusks. They knew that snails are fond of the limestone hills of Borneo. According to researcher Menno Schilthuizen, this fondness might be due to the fact that Acmella nana’s shells are made of calcium carbonate, which also happens to be the primary component of limestone. Schilthuizen is a co-researcher of the study and teaches evolution at the Leiden University, Netherlands.

Schilthuizen informed that when he and his colleagues visit limestone hills, they carry several sturdy plastic bags with them. Those bags are used to collect plenty of litter, dirt and soil from the area below limestone cliffs.

All the collected contents are then sieved. The bigger objects including snail shells get dumped into a bucketful of water. The researchers stir the water around continuously to allow the clay and sand settle at the bottom. The shells, however, remain afloat. Finally, the floating shells are scooped out and studied under a microscope.

Schilthuizen said that there are times when sieving contents of a few such plastic bags allow researchers to come across tens of thousands or thousands of shells including the very small ones.

The scientists still don’t have much information about the food habits of Acmella nana. This is because they are yet to see the tiny snails alive. However, they have seen a related Borneo snail species Acmella polita eating thin films of fungi and bacteria growing on moist limestone surfaces.

During this study, scientists discovered a total of 48 new snail species including Acmella nana. The entire study has been published in the journal ZooKeys on November 2.