Researchers have found a brand new species of bright-yellow “margarita” snail hiding in plain sight on a coral reef within the Florida Keys. The tiny invertebrate, which lacks a standard snail shell, can shoot out poisonous mucus webs.
The newfound species, named Cayo margarita as an homage to the late Jimmy Buffett, was found on Florida’s Coral Reef, the one barrier reef system in the US. The colourful hue of the snail and its shut proximity to the Florida shoreline impressed researchers to call the snail after “Margaritaville,” the music by Buffett, who died on Sept. 1.
The genus, Cayo, interprets to “low island” and describes how the snails’ round our bodies seem on the reef.
C. margarita grows to round 0.4 inches (1 centimeter) and makes use of its poisonous mucus webs to catch plankton, algae and detritus. These snails spend their whole lives anchored to the identical spot of the reef and depend on ocean currents to waft meals previous their mucus webs.
The researchers described the newfound snail species in a examine revealed Oct. 9 within the journal PeerJ, together with a carefully associated lime-green snail, named Cayo galbinus, that was just lately found by the identical researchers on coral reefs in Belize.
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The 2 species belong to the household Vermetidae, also referred to as the worm snails, as a result of they don’t use their shells to guard their gentle our bodies. As a substitute, their modified shells act as a tether that holds them to the reef.
“They’re associated to common free-living snails, however when the juveniles discover a appropriate spot to reside, they hunker down, cement their shell to the substrate, and by no means transfer once more,” examine lead writer Rüdiger Bieler, curator of invertebrates on the Area Museum in Chicago, mentioned in a assertion. It’s fascinating to see two associated animals use the identical physique half for one thing fully totally different, he added.
The brand new species are carefully associated to the Spider-Man snail, Thylacodes vandyensis, which was found within the Florida Keys by Bieler and his workforce in 2017. As its title suggests, T. vandyensis additionally shoots out chemically enriched mucus webs.
The researchers suppose the poisonous Cayo snails’ vivid colours are a warning to different animals to “deter the neighbors from getting too shut,” Bieler mentioned. This may clarify how they can reside out within the open with none protecting shell, he added.
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Researchers initially thought the 2 newfound snails could possibly be associated sub-species that had altered their colours based mostly on their location. However this turned out to not be the case.
“Initially, after I noticed the lime-green one and the lemon-yellow one, I figured they have been the identical species,” Bieler mentioned. “However once we sequenced their DNA, they have been very totally different.”
C. margarita and C. galbinus could possibly be a number of the few marine creatures which will thrive on account of local weather change. The snails choose completely anchoring themselves to useless corals, which is able to grow to be more and more frequent as ocean temperatures rise and corals bleach themselves. Nonetheless, useless reefs might imply there may be much less meals out there to them.
The invention of C. margarita is a reminder that there are many undescribed species hiding in plain sight.
They reside in a regularly visited reef, and even then “we needed to look very carefully” to see them, Bieler mentioned. “It is one other indication that proper underneath our noses, now we have undescribed species.”