Life deep down: A new beautiful translucent snail from the deepest cave in Croatia

Sep 10, 2013
This image shows the new species, Zospeum tholussum Weigand, 2013. Credit: Alexander M. Weigand

Scientists discovered a new species of a peculiar cave-dwelling snail in one of the 20 deepest cave systems in the world, Lukina Jama–Trojama in Croatia. The newly discovered species belongs to a genus of minute air-breathing land snails that have lost visual orientation and are considered to be true eutroglobionts, or exclusive cave-dwellers. The study describing the new species was published in the open access journal Subterranean Biology.

The new species Zospeum tholussum is a miniature and fragile snail, with a beautifully shaped dome-like translucent shell. Only one living specimen was found during the expedition around the galleries of the Lukina Jama–Trojama cave system. The animal was found at the remarkable depth of 980 m, in an unnamed chamber full of rocks and sand and 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 of the cave, in a close proximity to running water, however suggest that these animals are not exactly immobile. Scientists hypothesize that dispersal is achieved through passive transportation via water or larger mammals.

This image shows the single living Zospeum tholussum specimen from the study, photographed in the larger chamber of the Lukina Jama–Trojama cave system. Credit: Jana Bedek, HBSD

This is a 3D model of the Lukina Jama–Trojama cave system with an indication of the in the latter, the region of collected shells (1) and the collection site of the living specimen of Zospeum tholussum (2). Credit: Cross-section: D. Bakšić et al. (2010), Croatian Speleological Server, speleologija.hr/lukinajama. Photos: J. Bedek

The Lukina Jama–Trojama is the deepest cave system in Croatia, extraordinary for its vertical shape, long pits and great depth of -1392 m. From an ecological point of view this cave system is extremely interesting for having three microclimatic layers: firstly entrance icy part with the temperature of about 1 °C, secondly, middle part with the temperature up to 2 °C and bottom part with temperature till 4 °C. These unusual living conditions make the cave extremely interesting for scientist from a biodiversity point of view.

Explore further: Rising temperatures can be hard on dogs

More information: Weigand AM (2013) New Zospeum species (Gastropoda, Ellobioidea, Carychiidae) from 980 m depth in the Lukina Jama–Trojama cave system (Velebit Mts., Croatia). Subterranean Biology 11: 45–53. DOI: 10.3897/subtbiol.11.5966

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New shrimp-like species found in New Mexico cave

Apr 17, 2012

Scientists have discovered a new tiny shrimp-like species in a gypsum cave in southeastern New Mexico, only a few dozen miles from the famous caves at Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

New cave-dwelling arachnids discovered in Brazil

May 22, 2013

Two new species of cave-dwelling short-tailed whipscorpions have been discovered in northeastern Brazil, and are described in research published May 22 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Adalberto Santos ...

Cave dwelling nettle discovered in China

Dec 28, 2012

South West China, Myanmar and Northern Vietnam contain one of the oldest exposed outcrops of limestone in the world. Within this area are thousands of caves and gorges. It is only recently that botanists ...

Recommended for you

Rising temperatures can be hard on dogs

Jul 25, 2014

The "dog days of summer" are here, but don't let the phrase fool you. This hot time of year can be dangerous for your pup, says a Kansas State University veterinarian.

Monkeys fear big cats less, eat more, with humans around

Jul 25, 2014

Some Monkeys in South Africa have been found to regard field scientists as human shields against predators and why not if the alternative is death by leopard? The researchers found the monkeys felt far safer ...

User comments : 0