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‘Large’ creature found lurking in ‘underground cavern’ in Serbia. It’s a new species


A scientist strapped on climbing gear and lowered themselves into a pit-like cavern in eastern Serbia. Deep in the “underground cavern,” they spotted a “large” creature crawling across a moist stone.

It turned out to be a new species.

The pit in Mt. Devica was just one of 30 sites researchers visited between 2021 and 2023 while surveying wildlife, according to a study published May 9 in the peer-reviewed journal ZooKeys. The team was searching for a group of “relatively small and usually difficult to find” snails known as Vitrea snails.

Most of their surveys uncovered known snail species, but Mt. Devica was different.

When researchers explored the “underground cavern,” they found a dozen “large” and unfamiliar-looking snails, the study said. They took a closer look at the animals and realized they’d discovered a new species: Vitrea virgo, or the Mt. Devica crystal snail.

Mt. Devica crystal snail’s are considered “large,” measuring about 0.2 inches in width, the study said. Their shells are “translucent” and “densely coiled,” the underside being “almost flat.” Their soft bodies are “completely devoid of pigmentation.”

The shell of a Vitrea virgo, or the Mt. Devica crystal snail.

The shell of a Vitrea virgo, or the Mt. Devica crystal snail.


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Photos show a Mt. Devica crystal snail shell from several angles. The delicate spiral shell almost looks like plastic.

Like other Vitrea snails, the new species has both male and female genitalia, researchers said.

Mt. Devica crystal snails were found crawling on “wet rocks” in “a small underground cavern,” the study said. The animals were living “deeper in the pit” and “only found in the darker parts.”

A photo shows a researcher climbing into the pit.

A researcher being lowered into the pit where Vitrea virgo, or the Mt. Devica crystal snail, was found.A researcher being lowered into the pit where Vitrea virgo, or the Mt. Devica crystal snail, was found.

A researcher being lowered into the pit where Vitrea virgo, or the Mt. Devica crystal snail, was found.

Researchers said they named the new species after Mt. Devica where it was discovered and, so far, the only area where it has been found. “Devica” means “a virgin” in Serbian, so the new species was named after the corresponding Latin word, “virgo.”

Devica is in eastern Serbia, a roughly 150-mile drive southeast of Belgrade and near the border with Bulgaria.

The new species was identified by its shell size, shape, body coloring, genitalia and other subtle physical features, the study said. Researchers did not provide a DNA analysis of the new species.

The research team included Vukašin Gojšina, Nikola Vesović, Srećko Ćurčić, Tamara Karan-Žnidaršič, Biljana Mitrović and Ivaylo Dedov.

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