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Tiniest-ever snail species found in China

"Investigating tiny-shelled land snails is important for assessing biodiversity and natural history," researchers wrote.

By Brooks Hays
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Tiniest-ever snail species found in China
A new researcher paper describes seven new species of terrestrial snails, including the world's smallest land snail species, Angustopila dominikae. Photo by Barna Pall-Gergely and Nikolett Szpisjak

MATSUMOTO, Japan, Sept. 29 (UPI) -- A team of scientists from Germany, China and Japan have discovered the smallest-ever species of land snails from limestone outcroppings in Southern China's Guangxi Province.

The minuscule snail, Angustopila dominikae, is one of seven new species of land snail described in a new paper, published in the journal ZooKeys.

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The average size of the record-setting terrestrial "microsnail" specimens was 0.86 millimeters in shell height -- small enough to fit ten through the eye of a needle. Another of the newly described species, Angustopila subelevata, was nearly as small, measuring an average of 0.87 millimeters tall.

"Extremes in body size of organisms not only attract attention from the public, but also incite interest regarding their adaptation to their environment," researchers wrote in their new paper on the discoveries. "Investigating tiny-shelled land snails is important for assessing biodiversity and natural history as well as for establishing the foundation for studying the evolution of dwarfism in invertebrate animals."

There is much interest, among scientists, in understanding the interplay between evolutionary adaptation, species diversification and body size. While lineages generally trend towards larger bodies as they sprout new species, there are a number of exceptions to the rule.

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One recent study showed that a group of crabs' preference for coral habitat kept their average body sizes unusually small. The story of tiny crabs and microsnails may be quite similar.

"We hope that these results provide the taxonomic groundwork for future studies concerning the evolution of dwarfism in invertebrates," the researchers concluded.

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