By SARAH GRIFFITHS
- Scientists from Goethe University, Frankfurt and the Biospeleological Society in Croatia discovered the rare transparent mollusc
- The species Zospeum tholussum belongs to a genus of minute air-breathing land snails that are solely found in dark, underground caves
- It was discovered in one of the 20 deepest cave systems in the world; Lukina Jama–Trojama in Croatia
A spooky snail with a transparent shell has been discovered within Croatia’s deepest cave.
The tiny creature has been declared a news species and lives in one of the 20 deepest cave systems in the world; Lukina Jama–Trojama in Croatia.
The newly discovered species – Zospeum tholussum – belongs to a genus of minute air-breathing land snails that cannot see to find their way around and are considered to be true eutroglobionts that only live in dark, underground caves.
The fragile snail has a beautifully shaped dome-like translucent shell.
Scientists from Goethe University, Frankfurt and the Biospeleological Society in Croatia, found just one living specimen during the expedition, the findings of which were published in the journal Subterranean Biology.
The animal was found at the remarkable depth of 980 metres, in an unnamed chamber full of rocks and sand with a small stream running through it.
All known species from the cave-dwelling genus Zospeum possess a limited ability to move.
Their preference of a muddy habitat and the fact that they are usually located near the drainage system of the cave, in a close proximity to running water, suggests these animals are not immobile.
Scientists think that dispersal is achieved by snails travelling via water or hitching a ride on larger mammals.
The Lukina Jama–Trojama is the deepest cave system in Croatia and is known for its extraordinary vertical shape, long pits and great depth of minus 1,392 metres.
From an ecological point of view this cave system is extremely interesting for having three microclimatic layers: an icy part that forms its entrance with a temperature of about 1°C, a middle part with temperatures up to 2°C and bottom part with a temperature of 4°C.
These unusual living conditions make the cave extremely interesting for scientists from a biodiversity point of view. – “DM”