Snails small enough to fit almost 10 times into the eye of a needle have been discovered in Guangxi province, Southern China.
With their shells measuring 0.86mm in height, the researchers believe they are the smallest land snails ever found.
The Angustopila dominikae snail – named after the wife of one of the authors ofthe study published in the journal ZooKeys – is just visible to the naked eye but very difficult to spot.
Barna Páll-Gergely, co-author and scientist from Shinshu university in Japan said he was excited to find the “really really tiny” snails.
“These are very probably extreme endemic species. If we find them in more than one locality that is somewhat surprising,” he said.
The seven species of record-breaking “microsnails” were discovered by the researchers while collecting soil samples from the base of limestone rocks in Guangxi province. They say it is likely they are indigenous to the area, with the most similar species living about 621 miles away in Thailand.
Páll-Gergely said the extreme size of the snails could not be explained easily by evolution.
“We cannot explain their size by adaptation to the environment. For very tiny insects we can guess the evolutionary reason why they evolved like that, but in the case of snails it is much more difficult. The whole family of species are all very small and their common ancestor, which lived maybe 60 million years ago was also very small. Since then this very tiny species survived somehow in different geographical areas and under different climates. ”
It is not possible for snails to be much smaller than those discovered because the snails’ organs and cells cannot be smaller and a minimum number of cells are needed for the animal to exist, he added.