World's smallest land snail could fit inside a grain of sand

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By Chris Simms

Angustopila psammion

Angustopila psammion is the smallest known onshore snail

Contributions to Zoology 2022

A recently discovered snail taxon is the smallest yet recovered connected land. Angustopila psammion, discovered successful cave sediment successful bluish Vietnam, has a ammunition conscionable 0.48 millimetres precocious and a ammunition measurement of lone 0.036 cubic millimetres. This makes the taxon truthful tiny that you could acceptable astir 5 individuals wrong the mean atom of sand.

Unsurprisingly, these snails are hard to spot. To find them, Barna Páll-Gergely, a onshore snail taxonomist astatine the Eötvös Loránd Research Network successful Budapest, Hungary, and his colleagues gathered ungraded samples from caves and placed them successful a bucket of water. They past removed the floating debris, dried it, sieved it and examined it nether a microscope. “I cleaned the shells nether the microscope with precise precise brushes utilized by nail artists,” says Páll-Gergely.

The snails astir apt didn’t live successful the caves though, says Páll-Gergely. “We presume that the sediment had fallen successful done crevices successful the rock, due to the fact that it contains bleached, opaque shells of surface-dwelling terrestrial gastropods. The surviving snails presumably unrecorded heavy successful limestone crevices adjacent to oregon connected basal systems.”

The researchers besides discovered a not-quite-so-tiny snail successful Laos, naming it Angustopila coprologos, aft the Ancient Greek connection for “dung gatherer”. Standing a mighty 0.51 mm tall, it seems to put tiny granules of mud – perchance its ain faeces – successful a signifier of radial lines connected the aboveground of its shell.

Angustopila coprologos

Angustopila coprologos seems to decorate its ammunition with its ain faeces

Contributions to Zoology 2022

Why it does this is unknown. “If it is camouflage, what would prey connected these tiny snails?” says Páll-Gergely. “If not camouflage, past what? It was astonishing to spot that successful look of their highly tiny size, these tiny snails person analyzable behavioural mechanisms that evolved arsenic a effect to definite biology factors that we cognize thing about.”

The snails’ miniature size does springiness them advantages. “It is probable that by being small, these snails tin scope nutrient particles nary different taxon tin devour and participate precise constrictive stone crevices,” says Páll-Gergely. They could besides debar predation by being smaller than the things their predators usually look for, helium says.

Is A. psammion apt to beryllium the smallest onshore snail possible? Finding thing smaller volition beryllium progressively difficult, says Páll-Gergely.

There are smaller known snails successful the oversea – the grounds holder determination is Ammonicera minortalis, with a diameter of betwixt 0.34 mm and 0.46 mm, helium says. That is astir apt adjacent to the little limit, which is determined by the fig of neurons a newborn snail indispensable person to beryllium functional, and the ammunition of the big snail being ample capable to accommodate astatine slightest 1 egg.

Journal reference: Contributions to Zoology, DOI: 10.1163/18759866-bja10025

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