Who isn’t a little weird? Here at the Center for Biological Diversity, we celebrate peculiarity in every one of its human and animal forms. After all, who’d want to live in a world without weirdness?
A Snail’s Tale: The Itsy-bitsy, Teenie-weenie Ichetucknee Siltsnail
In this installment of Save the Weirdos: The tiniest snail you ever did see (or didn’t, because when I say it’s tiny, I mean it’s TINY).
The Ichetucknee siltsnail is also called the sand-grain snail because to the naked eye, it looks like a grain of sand. Same color, same freakin’ size.
Well, almost the same size. By definition, a grain of sand is larger than silt but smaller than gravel — larger than .0625 mm and smaller than 2 mm wide. The Ichetucknee siltsnail is between 2 and 3 mm wide.
So this snail is actually the same size as one of the absolute smallest bits of “gravel” in the world. About as wide as the tip of a very sharp crayon or a pencil in dire need of sharpening.
So… to a person looking at this snail sitting on the tip of their finger — or clinging to the rootlet of a cypress tree in the waters of a clear Florida stream (where it lives) — it’s an animal that just looks like a tiny, tan-colored dot.
That’s weird enough in itself. But looking at this creature way up close and personal, things gets even weirder. Here are just a few grains of proof.
* The Ichetucknee siltsnail snail has a partly see-through shell.
* Biologists describe its shell as “obese conical,” which means it’s shaped like a wide cone. (Sorry, but we think the word “obese” is just funny related to anything about this sand-grain-size creature.)
* The Ichetucknee siltsnail lives in only one place in the whole world, which is as relatively miniscule as the snail itself: an area of just 10 square yards in a pool on Florida’s Ichetucknee River. This makes the tiny snail immensely vulnerable: A single random event like a drought or a spill in its Ichetucknee River home could render it extinct. (OK, this is much more of a sad fact than a neat fact—sorry for real this time.)
* “Ichetucknee” is a Seminole word meaning “place of the beavers.” And yep, there are beavers in this snail’s habitat…
* … that are benefitted by its existence. Snails play an irreplaceable role in their ecosystems, recycling nutrients and providing food and calcium for many other animals, including birds, amphibians, reptiles, other invertebrates and small mammals. Like beavers.
* The Ichetucknee siltsnail is considered a “grazer” — but instead of grass, it munches on “periphyton,” a mixture of delicious algae, bacteria, microbes and other tiny-scale noms.
* Female siltsnails may be either oviparous (egg-laying) or ovoviviparous (giving live birth after eggs hatch inside their bodies… Ow?).
* The male of this species may or may not have a penis on the side of its neck. True fact.
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