Two scientists from Bengaluru-based Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) have discovered a new micro snail species at deep inside a limestone cave at Mawsmai village in Meghalaya’s East Khasi Hills district.

The snails, ‘Georissa mawsmaiensis’ are so small in size that an adult measures less than 2 millimeters in length.

ATREE scientists Nipu Kumar Das and NA Aravind spotted the snails at the cave.

“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 in a statement.

A member of the same group (genus), ‘Georissa saritta’, was discovered 170 years ago in the same area.

The two scientists said their species was a little bit different from Georissa sarrita which was documented in 1851 by WH Benson, a civil servant in British India and an amateur malacologist (who studies shell-less invertebrates).

The new species is different in shell size compared to the earlier one.

Besides, it has four very prominent spiral striations on body whorls of the shell compared to seven in Georissa sarrita.

Until now, five snail species have been found from the caves of Meghalaya and there could be more, they said.

However, Meghalaya is famous for its caves and the two scientists are concerned that tourist footfalls could affect the ecology of the area.

“The cave has a very unique environment that can harbour unique faunal diversity. There are several studies on cave biodiversity in Southeast Asian countries and other parts of the world, which reported various animals including snails, but very few studies, are there from Indian caves,” they said.

Mawsmai cave is one of the major tourist attractions of Sohra, erstwhile Cherrapunji.

Lately, artificial lights and cemented floor and steps have been added inside to make it more “tourist-friendly”.

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