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Newly discovered snail fits into the eye of a needle

Researchers uncover some of the world's tiniest land snails and take a fascinating photo of the little shelled animal tucked into a very tiny space.

Angustopila dominikae in close-up images. B. Páll-Gergely

Popular website Cute Overload, a place to get your daily fix of kitten and puppy photos, has 58 "Rules of Cuteness." Number 8 reads: "If you are small enough to use another animal's ear as a blanket, it's cute."

The newly discovered Angustopila dominikae is a land snail so small, it could get lost in a pygmy marmoset's ear.

Barna Páll-Gergely, a researcher from Shinshu University in Japan, and his colleagues found a microcosm of impossibly tiny land snails in China. They published their findings in the journal ZooKeys on September 28 with the title "Seven new hypselostomatid species from China, including some of the world's smallest land snails."

Angustopila dominikae, one of the species of snails, has a shell height of just 0.03 inch (0.86 millimeter). The paper describes it as "amongst the smallest land snails ever reported."

Snail in a needle
This newly discovered snail fits into a sewing needle's eye. B. Páll-Gergely and N. Szpisjak

The snail is named after lead author Páll-Gergely's wife Dominika, which may be one of the most romantic scientific gestures ever made.

Itsy-bitsy snails are described as "microsnails," a term that applies to critters with shells smaller than about 0.2 inch (5 millimeters). A gastropod on the bigger end of that scale would dwarf the newly found species, which fits snugly inside the eye of a sewing needle with plenty of room left over to fit at least 10 more of its mates.

The snail discoveries are a fascinating peek into a tiny world and a reminder of how scientists are still discovering unknown species that have the ability to fascinate the public.

(Via The Guardian)