Scientists who study invertebrates for long enough tend to discover new species, because there tends to be a pretty diverse collection of such creatures in any given environment. This is especially true of cave systems in places like Brazil, which tend to be poorly studied. And when teams discover a new species, they get to name it.
Often, species will be named after the person who discovered them, or in homage to Greek and Roman gods, since those mythologies are pretty popular. But a team that discovered a small (only 2mm long!) species of land snail in Brazil has decided to name it after a different kind of deity—one from the geek staple Dungeons & Dragons.
The species is Gastrocopta sharae, named after Shar, a goddess of darkness, caverns, and secrets. “It’s a fitting name for a tiny snail that lives hidden in the dark recesses of a cavern,” the study’s authors said.
This is actually the second time this team has named a snail after a goddess from Dungeons & Dragons. In 2014, they found a tiny snail that lives in deep ocean waters, and named it Halystina umberlee, after Umberlee, a goddess of the ocean connected with the perils of the sea.
Tropical snails in general are still not well understood, but they are one of the most threatened animal groups. Not only that, but cave-dwelling invertebrates don’t receive a lot of attention from researchers, and cave-dwelling snails are even less known.
Unfortunately, the new species is threatened by human activity. “Caverns are known to have very fragile ecosystems and several lack proper protection, so works like ours are an important step for conservation efforts,” the researchers said.
People may think of caves as empty and dank, but they can contain a vast array of different flora and fauna, all of which deserve protection as much as any better known species.