By Tanya Dimitrova
24 August 2014
(mongabay.com) – Scientists have discovered a new snail species on a limestone hill near a cement quarry in Malaysia, which as far as they know lives nowhere else in the world. The animal's shell is only one tenth of an inch in size.
"Narrow endemic species are a common occurrence on limestone hills," Jaap Vermeulen, lead author of the new study, told mongabay.com. "A good biologist can quite easily discover several species of endemic invertebrates on an isolated, unsurveyed hill."
Although just unearthed, the miniscule snail is already threatened with extinction. It lives on a limestone hill called Kanthan given as a concession to an international company Lafarge. The cement producer quarries the hill for raw materials. As a result, the snail will be included as Critically Endangered in the next update of the IUCN Red List for Endangered Species.
The scientists who discovered the animal named it Charopa lafargei, after the cement company that will decide its fate.
"I'm not aware of a species threatened with extinction which has been given the name of the company which can determine whether it goes extinct or survives," said Tony Whitten from Fauna & Flora International.
The new snail is not the only endemic species found on the hill. Kanthan is also home to nine plant species that are on Malaysia's Red List of Endangered Plants, one Critically Endangered spider (Liphistius kanthan), one gecko (Cyrtodactylus guakanthanensis) and two snails (Opisthostoma trapezium and Sinoennea chrysalis) that are found nowhere else in the world.
Representatives from Lafarge have attended a number of talks with local environmentalists and discussed potential conservation efforts on the south side of the hill—the confirmed home of the Critically Endangered spider and gecko.
"We are committed to ensuring the preservation of rare biodiversity that may be found on land identified for quarry development," said Jim Ruxton, Senior Vice-President, Industrial Operations, Lafarge Malaysia. [more]