An unknown but unique snail genus and species -- considered as "new to science" -- has been discovered from Amboli in Sindhudurg district in the Western Ghats and has been named after a Mumbai-based scientist, excited researchers said here on Wednesday.
The field discovery, first in over 100 years, caps a five-year long detailed study by a group of international researchers and experts, and has been published in the European Journal of Taxonomy, describing the "new land mollusc genus and new species" found in Amboli in the coastal district bordering Goa.
While the genus has been named as 'Varadia', after scientist Dr. Varad Giri, 50, the species is christened as 'Varadia Amboliensis' as a tribute to the small and picturesque Amboli village where it was discovered in natural jungles near the Hiranyakeshi Temple, said lead research scientist Dr. Amrut Bhosale.
Dr. Bhosale started work on this snail during his PhD, and other prominent persons involved in it were: Dr. Dinarzarde Raheem of the Natural History Museum, London, Dr. Christopher Wade of University of Nottingham, Dr. Ahmed Saadi of University of Vienna, Aasif Tamboli of Kyungpook National University, South Korea, Dr. D.V. Muley and Suhas Kadam from Shivaji University Kolhapur and Thackeray Wildlife Foundation's Tejas Thackeray, who is son of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
"A member of the eupulmonate molluscan group Stylommatophora, this semi-slug is endemic to the northern and central Western Ghats, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They are called so because their shells are relatively small compared with their body, and the shell is often partly or almost completely covered by the snail's skin or the mantle, which is also retractable," Dr. Bhosale told IANS.
He said the new genus is named after Dr. Giri "in recognition of his enormous and transformative contributions to the study and conservation of the Indian herpetofauna" and a DNA analysis indicates that this species is "new to science".
Genus is a principal taxonomic category that ranks above species and below family, and is denoted by a capitalised Latin name, said Dr. Giri, a renowned herpetologist and a Senior Scientist with Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS).
Usually found on the forest grounds or on trees, the snail is around 7 cm long, omnivorous feeding on leaf litter, insects or small crawlies and can be differentiated from other Indian semi-slugs by its unique external appearance, shell, reproductive system and other features, he added.
Most active at night, the new snail is currently recorded from barely five localities in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Goa, but it is at a high risk of extinction due to gradual habitat degradation or loss.
"The discovery of this large and striking snail emphasizes the urgent need for a detailed and wide-ranging survey of the snails and slugs inhabiting the Western Ghats which are still not known to science," urged Dr. Giri, who earlier had a reptile named after him, 'Dendrepahis Girii' or the Bronzeback tree snake.