This is Acmella nana hiding among the small print of the ZooKeys paper where it is described. (Prof. Menno Schilthuizen, Naturalis Biodiversity Center)

Just about a month ago, researchers announced the discovery of the world's smallest land-dwelling snail: Angustopila dominikae, a creature just .86 millimeters across. Ten of them could fit into the eye of a sewing needle, though I'm not sure what they'd do there.

[Senile sea snails are helping us understand memory loss]

But Angustopila dominikae's reign was short lived.

In a paper published in ZooKeys on Monday, researchers announced the discovery of 48 new snail species found in Malaysian Borneo, including one that smashes the previous size record to dust. Acmella nana, named for the latin word for "dwarf", has a shell just 0.50 - 0.60 mm wide and 0.60 - 0.79 mm high.


Many of the new snails were discovered by sieving soil; in some areas, a few litres of soil can yield thousands of micro-snail shells, most, such as these from Peninsular Malaysia, measuring just one or two millimetres. (Reuben Clements, Rimba)

Why do so many new species keep showing up? In some cases, these are previously collected specimens that just took some time to be analyzed and formally named. But in other cases, the snails have eluded human capture. They may not be speedy or vicious, but they are incredibly tiny -- and that's enough to keep most of them safe from our prying eyes.

That doesn't mean they're just scattered about underfoot: One of the new species only lives at the mouth of a nearly inaccessible cave. Seven others can only be found on a mountain over 13,000 feet high.

Congratulations to Acmella nana, the smallest of the small. Let's hope you can keep your title for more than four weeks.

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