Sabah home to world's tiniest snail
Published on: Wednesday, November 11, 2015
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Kuala Lumpur: The world's record for the smallest land snail is broken once again. The minute shell with an average diameter of 0.7 mm was found in Sabah along with another 47 new species of greatly varying sizes, by a team of Dutch and Malaysian biologists.The new tiny snails has been named Acmella nana (nanur is "dwarf" in Latin). The previous title holder, the Chinese Angustopila dominikae which measured just 0.8mm, was just announced a month ago.

Publishing their finds in the journal ZooKeys, the team of snail researchers write that some of the 48 newly described species are widespread in Borneo and have been familiar to them for decades but were only described recently.

Some of the snails eke out a hidden existence on mountain tops or in rare vegetation types and so, were only recently discovered by the authors. For instance, there are seven new species that can only be found on the 4,095-metre-high Mount Kinabalu. Another example, Diplommatina tylocheilos, only lives at the entrance of the accessible Loloposon Cave in Mount Trusmadi.

The new information tells us more about isolated, or endemic snails. Being slowly movers, snails are often confined to small patches of a habitat, where they evolve and adapt to the specific site. Their restricted distribution makes them key targets for biodiversity conservation.

"A blazing forest fire at Loloposon Cave could wipe out the entire population of Diplommatina tylocheilos," says co-author Schilthuizen.

The discoveries are the latest result of an ongoing research project on the snail fauna of Borneo by the authors. For over twenty-five years, Jaap Vermeulen, Thor-Seng Liew, and Menno Schilthuizen of Naturalis Biodiversity Centre and Universiti Malaysia Sabah, have been documenting Malaysia's terrestrial molluscs.


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