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‘Large’ creature found hiding in ‘underground cavern’ in Serbia. It’s a new species

A scientist donned climbing gear and lowered himself into a pit-like cavern in eastern Serbia. Deep in the “underground cavern,” they spotted a “large” creature crawling on a damp stone.

It turned out to be a new species.

The Mount Devica Trench was just one of 30 sites researchers visited between 2021 and 2023 while surveying wildlife, according to a study published May 9 in the peer-reviewed journal ZooKeys. The team was looking for a group of “relatively small and generally hard to find” snails, known as Vitrea snails.

Most of their surveys turned up known species of snails, but Mount Devica was different.

When researchers explored the “underground cavern,” they found a dozen “large” and unfamiliar-looking snails, according to the study. They took a closer look at the animals and realized they had discovered a new species: Vitrea virgo, or the Mount Devica crystal snail.

The Mount Devica crystal snails are considered “large,” measuring about 0.2 inches in width, according to the study. Their shells are “translucent” and “densely coiled,” with the underside being “almost flat.” Their soft bodies are “completely devoid of pigmentation”.

The shell of a Vitrea virgo, or the Mount Devica crystal snail.  Photos by Gojšina, Vesović, Ćurčić, Karan-Žnidaršič, Mitrović and Dedov (2024)The shell of a Vitrea virgo, or the Mount Devica crystal snail.  Photos by Gojšina, Vesović, Ćurčić, Karan-Žnidaršič, Mitrović and Dedov (2024)

The shell of a Vitrea virgo, or the Mount Devica crystal snail. Photos by Gojšina, Vesović, Ćurčić, Karan-Žnidaršič, Mitrović and Dedov (2024)


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The photos show a crystal snail shell from Mount Devica from multiple angles. The delicate spiral shell almost looks like plastic.

Like other Vitrea snails, the new species has both male and female genitalia, the researchers said.

Mount Devica crystal snails were found crawling on “wet rocks” in “a small underground cavern”, according to the study. The animals lived “deeper in the pit” and “were only found in the darker parts.”

One photo shows a researcher climbing into the pit.

A researcher descended into the pit where Vitrea virgo, or the Mount Devica crystal snail, was found.  Photo by Gojšina, Vesović, Ćurčić, Karan-Žnidaršič, Mitrović and Dedov (2024)A researcher descended into the pit where Vitrea virgo, or the Mount Devica crystal snail, was found.  Photo by Gojšina, Vesović, Ćurčić, Karan-Žnidaršič, Mitrović and Dedov (2024)

A researcher descended into the pit where Vitrea virgo, or the Mount Devica crystal snail, was found. Photo by Gojšina, Vesović, Ćurčić, Karan-Žnidaršič, Mitrović and Dedov (2024)

The researchers said they named the new species after Mount Devica, where it was discovered and, so far, the only area where it has been found. “Devica” means “virgin” in Serbian, which is why the new species was named after the corresponding Latin word, “virgin”.

Devica is located in eastern Serbia, about 240 km southeast of Belgrade and near the border with Bulgaria.

The new species was identified by its shell size, shape, body coloration, genitalia and other subtle physical characteristics, according to the study. The researchers did not provide DNA analysis of the new species.

The research team included Vukašin Gojšina, Nikola Vesović, Srećko Ćurčić, Tamara Karan-Žnidaršič, Biljana Mitrović and Ivaylo Dedov.

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