A new snail was recently discovered off the coast of Florida. With it being a bright, yellow/key-lime green color, it was aptly named margarita after the late Jimmy Buffett’s famous “Margaritaville.”
According to Phys.org, technically, its name is Cayo margarita. Cayo is the genus name, which is Spanish for a small, low island.
Cayo margarita was discovered in the Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary by the leader of the study, Rüdiger Bieler, and his team. The team originally thought it was a similar-looking snail from Belize called Cayo galbinus, but the researchers were happily surprised to find that the two species had significantly different DNA.
The Cayo margarita snail is a distant cousin from the snails you might see in your garden, and they have a significant difference — they barely move throughout their lifetimes.
Margarita snails attach themselves to coral while they’re young and stay stuck to that coral for the rest of their lives. They catch their prey using a mucus web.
One of the other defining features is that the Cayo margarita has an incredibly bright head that sticks out of its shell. Bieler explained that this is likely for protection. “On the reef, everybody is out to get you,” he said, “Our thought is this is a warning color.”
The discovery is an exciting one, even if you’re not an ocean enthusiast. The more we discover new species, the better we can understand already similar, existing species, how they function in the ecosystem, and how to help if they become endangered.
Plus, the more species we are able to keep track of, the better understanding we’ll have of how the environment is changing, for the good and the bad.
For example, the Cayo margarita will help scientists monitor how much coral is dying. The snails can stay attached to the coral even after it has broken off from the reef, so tracking whether the snails are spreading is a good indicator of how much coral is dying.
On the flip side, closely monitoring species and discovering new ones also gives us good news — like the announcement that Vaquita whales are no longer endangered and that 29 species in Australia are no longer considered threatened.
Although a brightly colored snail may seem like no big deal, it will give scientists a wealth of information about other snails — yes, even the ones in your garden — as well as changes to the environment and other species in Florida’s coral reef.
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