Guangxi, China – Researchers found in southern China, seven snails specimens that scientists believe are the tiniest in the world, according to a study published in the journal ZooKeys.

The widest measure of the smallest shell founded is 0.88 millimeters, and the snail’s colour is a “light gray, with a round, delicate whirl structure, and probably spends its life clinging to the limestone cliffs,” according to the study. On the other hand, the largest snail in the world is African Giant Snail, measuring almost 40 cm.

The tiny land snail, which can fit 10 times in the eye of a needle, was found in Guangxi, China. Credit: Popular Science.

The species, named Angustopila dominikae, was found in soil samples taken from beneath limestone cliffs in Guangxi province. It is part of a group called microgastropods that includes also sea shells and all sorts of marine mollusks.

Researchers encountered an empty shell of the specimen. At first sight, they thought the snail was a normal specimen that didn’t develop yet, but further investigations revealed that it was an adult, explained Adrienne Jochum, a researcher at Switzerland’s University of Bern and Bern Natural History Museum, in the study.

According to NewsWeek, the snails get the calcium they need for their shell from the limestone, made of calcium carbonate. Jochum added that they probably feed on bacterias and fungal filaments. The study states that their size provides them an evolutionary advantage, allowing them “to survive anything.”

Barna Páll-Gergely, co-author and scientist from Shinshu university in Japan said, “These are very probably extreme endemic species. If we find them in more than one locality that is somewhat surprising,” as reported in The Guardian.

He also stated that these are probably the smallest snails that are ever going to be discovered because its organs and cells couldn’t be smaller to contain the number of cells required for the specimen to exist.

The other six species founded are Angustopila subelevata (0.036 inches (0.91 mm in height), Angustopila szekeresi (0.04 inches, or 1.03 mm tall), Hypselostoma lacrima (0.05 inches or 1.33 mm in shell height), Hypselostoma socialis (about the same size with a different shell configuration), Krobylos sinensis (0.09 to 0.1 inches or 2.2 to 2.7 mm tall), and the last one: Angustopila huoyani (0.036-inch-tall or 0.91 mm) according to LiveScience.

“This finding underscores the need to explore more cave systems in order to make inferences about subterranean biodiversity in China,” the researchers conclude on the paper.

Source: ZooKeys