Transparent Snails, Walking Sharks, And Mechanical Insects: This Month In Animal Discoveries

By Nick Venable | 8 years ago

translucent snailWe love discoveries here at Giant Freakin’ Robot, from new exoplanets to ancient cities to soggy ten dollar bills in the washing machine. And while we’d be here all day if we had to mention each and every new species of animals discovered daily, we do like to talk about some of the more interesting creatures that have reared their heads (or shells) lately. One of these little critters is the Zospeum tholussum, a translucent cave-dwelling snail from Croatia. That’s its picture above. You know, the translucent snail.

A new member of the Ellobiidae family, this air-breathing land snail lives in one of the deepest caves on Earth, located in the Lukina Jama-Trojama cave system in Croatia, some 3,000 feet below the surface. Only one specimen was found, so it doesn’t necessarily speak for the bunch, but it has adapted to live in total darkness. Due to limited mobility, it makes it home in cold cave mud, keeping its body moist with nearby running water. Sounds like the kind of trendy apartment that I probably couldn’t afford to live in. It isn’t yet clear how these snails reproduce or eat, but we do know that they’re very tiny.

Even more interesting than a clear snail is the only insect ever discovered that features toothed mechanical gears in its hind leg-joints. To be clear, the Issus coleoptratus is not a newly discovered creature, as it’s been hopping around gardens in Europe and North Africa for many years. But University of Cambridge biologists Malcolm Burrows and Gregory Sutton discovered that the juvenile insects feature a fairly complex gear system in their hind legs that lock together, and when they rotate, the tiny insect leaps forward in a frightening way, if in fact miniscule leaping bugs give you the heebie jeebies. Using high-speed cameras and electron microscopes, they figured out how the insect is able to jump so perfectly, at speeds of up to 8.7 miles per hour. Check out the Issus in action below.

gear insect gifIf Olympic-bound insects don’t interest you, what about a shark that looks like it’s walking? This new species of a bamboo shark, the Hemiscyllium halmahera, was found off the coast of Ternate Island in the Indonesian archipelago of Muluku. These sharks only grow to around 27 inches in length, and thankfully aren’t a threat to humans. The shark swims along the sea floor looking for food, and the way it wriggles and pushes its fins, it appears as if it’s just out for a leisurely stroll. Think Jaws, but with more of a Woody Allen walk. International biologist Dr. Gerald Allen led the team that found and filmed the new specimens.

None of these are quite as cuddly as the recently discovered olinguito, but they’re just as cool. And as an added bonus, they probably won’t eat you.