October 22, 2009--
This newfound subterranean snail in the Hydrobiidae family lives in aquifers in the heart of Australia
, about 100 miles (180 kilometers) northwest of Alice Springs.
The 0.5-inch-long (1.3-centimeter-long) snail is one of 850 new invertebrates
--simple animals that include small crustaceans, spiders, and worms--found during a four-year survey of Australia's dry outback. (Related pictures: "Hundreds of New Species Found off Tasmania."
Until now, most of the continent's arid regions hadn't been explored by invertebrate experts, in part because the underground springs and microcaverns--some smaller than 0.4 inch (1 centimeter) wide--were thought to be devoid of life, said team member Steve Cooper of the South Australian Museum
"We are only just beginning to discover in Australia that groundwater is not just an inert entity," Cooper said via email, "but is the host of many diverse ecosystems with an extraordinary array of previously unknown species."
Cooper, who received funding for his work from the National Geographic Society's Committee for Research and Exploration
, co-presented the research at the Darwin 200: Evolution and Biodiversity
conference in Darwin, Australia, in September 2009. (The National Geographic Society owns National Geographic News.)
Photograph courtesy Bill Humphrey, Western Australian Museum