"Probably, Acmella nana lives in a similar way," Schilthuizen said.
The new tiny record holder lives in at least three places in Malaysian Borneo. (The island of Borneo is divided among three countries: Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia.) So, it's unlikely that it will be wiped out if one of its environments is destroyed. However, other snail species are not so lucky, Schilthuizen said.
There is a lot of calcium carbonate in the tropics (in fact, the calcium carbonate there is made from ancient mollusk shells), but it erodes rapidly, leaving behind isolated peaks of limestone, Schilthuizen said. As species are secluded on limestone peaks, they evolve into new species.
Borneo boasts a high diversity of snails - possibly up to 500 species - but these native creatures can be wiped out if developers or other disturbances destroy a limestone habitat, Schilthuizen said.
For instance, "A blazing forest fire at Loloposon Cave could wipe out the entire population of Diplommatina tylocheilos," Schilthuizen said in a statement, referring to a snail whose sole habitat lies in that cave.
Many of these limestone hills are being quarried for cement, and Schilthuizen and his colleagues have already documented native snail species that have gone extinct after their entire habitats were destroyed. Perhaps, he said, these companies could quarry just part of a hill and leave the other part untouched to promote the continuation of these species.
Snails play an important ecological role, feeding on dead and decaying matter, Schilthuizen said.
In addition to Acmella nana, researchers discovered another 47 snail species in the study, published online today (Nov. 2) in the journal ZooKeys.
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