Shillong: Scientists discovered a new micro snail species deep inside a limestone cave at Mawsmai hamlet in Meghalaya’s East Khasi Hills region on Thursday. Snails with the scientific name ‘Georissa mawsmaiensis’ are extremely little, measuring less than 2 mm in length as adults.
Nipu Kumar Das and NA Aravind of the Bengaluru-based Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) discovered the finding. ‘We have named this new species as Georissa mawsmaiensis after this limestone cave, Mawsmai. We collected the snails on the moist limestone rocks, 4-5 m inside the cave entrance. However, at present, we don’t know whether our species is a true cave species or not,’ Das and Aravind said.
‘Georissa saritta,’ a member of the same genus, was found in the same place 170 years ago. The two scientists said that the new find was distinct from Georissa sarrita, which was discovered in 1851 by WH Benson, a British Indian civil officer and amateur malacologist (who studies shell-less invertebrates).
The shell size of the new species differs from that of the previous one. Furthermore, it exhibits four pronounced spiral striations on the shell’s body whorls, compared to seven in Georissa sarrita. They added that five snail species have been discovered in Meghalaya caves so far and there might be more.
However, Meghalaya is known for its caverns and the two experts are afraid that tourist traffic would have an impact on the area’s environment. Changes in environmental conditions caused by manmade activities like mining and cave tourism have a harmful influence on the species that live inside these caves.
Mawsmai Cave is a popular tourist destination in Sohra, formerly Cherrapunji. Artificial lighting, cemented floor and steps have recently been installed inside to make it more tourist-friendly.