The mysterious creatures in the news this week sound like an odd gourmet meal at an exclusive French restaurant. The appetizer is a tiny land snail served by the dozen in the eye of a needle. The soup is a glow-in-the-dark bisque made from a biofluorescent sea turtle. The main course is a killer king crab that is threatening marine life in Antarctica. Who has room for dessert?
The journal Zookeys reports on the discovery in Guangxi, China, of the angustopila dominikae – one of the world’s smallest land snails. It’s so tiny at 0.86 mm in shell height that ten can fit comfortably in the eye of a needle. Found at the base of a limestone cliff, the snails are believed to feed on bacteria and fungal filaments. Researchers are studying them to determine how and why they evolved to such a tiny (although not a world record – that belongs to a 0.32mm Ammonicera minortalis snail) size.
According to the National Geographic, marine biologist David Gruber is believed to be the first human to see and record a critically-endangered hawksbill sea turtle emitting a neon glow using biofluorescence, which means reflecting blue light back as other colors. While common in coral, this is a first for a marine reptile and different from bioluminescence, which is when a creature or the bacteria on it generates its own light. Diving near the Solomon Islands, Gruber may also be one of the last to see this because the hawksbill sea turtle is so rare.
On the other hand, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports that researchers say climate change may soon enable king crabs to expand their territory to the shallow Antarctic shelf, allowing these creature-crushing crabs to become kings of the Antarctic ecosystem and kill off marine life which currently have no shell-crushing adversaries nor any protection from them.
Can humans eat enough Antarctic king crabs to keep them under control? Possibly, but that’s not a good solution. It would be a better idea to keep the globe in a healthy condition for giant crabs, tiny snails and glowing tortoises … not to mention the rest of us plain Earth creatures.