It's a Jurassic Park story. A 99-million-year-old fossil snail was recently discovered trapped in a piece of amber from Burma, we learned Tuesday from the Natural History Museum of Colmar where it will be exhibited. This species, "new to science", has been named "Archaeocyclotus brevivillosus", says in a statement the Alsatian museum.

The shell, which measures 9 mm long and 3.1 mm high, "is characterized by short and spiky hairs on its entire periphery," says the museum, which was given this precious fossil last year by a collector. According to a study published in the scientific journal Cretaceous Research, this "hairiness may have constituted multiple selective advantages for these animals and therefore promote their exit from the waters to terrestrial continental environments during the secondary era," the institution continues in its press release.

Hairy snails

Information that "is not new" but that "corroborates the previous ones: snails, at the time they conquer terrestrial environments, had hairs on their shells," explains to AFP the malacologist (specialist of molluscs) Jean-Michel Bichain, researcher attached to the museum and one of the authors of the study. A hairiness that "gave them several advantages", especially in terms of thermoregulation or the fight against predators, by promoting camouflage, he continues.

"There are 30 species of snails that are known in Burmese amber," a fossil resin extracted from the Hukawng Valley (northern Burma) and dating back about 99 million years, explains Jean-Michel Bichain. He insists on the "extraordinary" nature of this amber deposit which "gives a real window on the biodiversity of the age of the dinosaurs".

At the Colmar Museum in June

In total, "there are 200 specimens [of snails] in collection," which is "very, very low," he said. "Any new species therefore informs us about the history of the group," continues the researcher. "Very few are described and even fewer snails. At our specialist level, it is therefore a very pleasant moment to be able to handle such a part," he says.

The snail with the "hairy" shell will be visible in its amber gangue in June at the Colmarian Museum during an exhibition that will also host a life-size reconstruction of one of the largest and most complete tyrannosaurus skeletons.

  • Sciences
  • Burma
  • History