Tuesday, January 15, 2008
A snail's shell is normally an elegantly simple spiral. A new species of land snail, however, has a shell so bizarrely convuluted it looks like a tunnel maze in a children's playground. It coils around four distinct axes instead of the usual one (some known land snails do have two or even three axes, but this is a record). Opisthostoma vermiculum, from Malaysia, is only about 1mm long and has not been observed alive. Why the shell is so strange, and how the snail maneuvers with this contraption without getting caught up in plants and debris, are unsolved riddles.