Deep in one of the deepest caves in the world, a cave that reaches more than 4,500 feet below ground, scientists made a startling discovery: a new species of snail with a near-transparent shell.
Zospeum tholussum, an air-breathing land snail, is a brand-new entry in the Ellobiidae family of hollow-shelled snails. It’s very tiny, with a swirled, translucent dome-shaped shell. This type of snail, living as it does thousands of feet below ground, has totally adapted to live in darkness; it seems to have no visual sense, for example, which is a common mutation. Cave animals, including crustaceans, fish, and salamanders, often lose their sense of sight over the millenia; what’s the use of wasting energy on interpreting visual stimuli when there’s no light?
Found more than 3,000 feet below ground in the Lukina Jama-Trojama cave system in Croatia, this particular snail also seems to have a limited ability to move; it mostly stays in the deep, cold cave mud, near running water to keep its body moist. The scientists aren’t quite sure yet how it reproduces or what it eats.
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