Critter Corner: New "margarita snail" discovered in Key West
A newly discovered snail in the Florida Keys is being named after a Jimmy Buffett song.
What's happening: Scientists noticed four never-described-before species of snail and placed them in a new genus called cayo — Spanish for "key" — according to a study published in the journal PeerJ.
- One of the species was discovered in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (the other three were discovered in Belize).
- The small yellow snail — Cayo margarita — was named in honor of "Margaritaville."
Why it matters: The study highlights biodiversity in the Florida Keys, home to the only living coral barrier reef in the continental U.S.
What they're saying: The snails are "worm snails," which have irregular shells.
- "I find them particularly cool because they are related to regular free-living snails, but when the juveniles find a suitable spot to live, they hunker down, cement their shell to the substrate, and never move again," Rüdiger Bieler, the study's lead author, said in a statement.
- The shell grows like a tube around the snail's body, and it then hunts by laying out mucus to trap plankton.
Of note: Cayo margarita was found in a shallow, heavily touristed area of the Keys — but it was likely not noticed sooner because it's smaller than most worm snails, which are usually the size of a human finger, CNN reports.
- Their bright colors may scare off predators.
What we're watching: The Cayo snails live on dead coral. As more coral is killed off due to climate change and warming oceans, the snails could proliferate.
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