Pacific Island land snails are highly endangered due in part to misguided biological control programs employing the alien predator Euglandina rosea. Its victims include the fabled Society Island partulid tree snail fauna, but a few members have avoided extirpation in the wild, including the distinctly white-shelled Partula hyalina. High albedo shell coloration can facilitate land snail survival in open, sunlit environments and we hypothesized that P. hyalina has a solar refuge from the predator. We developed a 2.2 × 4.8 × 2.4 mm smart solar sensor to test this hypothesis and found that extant P. hyalina populations on Tahiti are restricted to forest edge habitats, where they are routinely exposed to significantly higher solar radiation levels than those endured by the predator. Long-term survival of this species on Tahiti may require proactive conservation of its forest edge solar refugia and our study demonstrates the utility of miniaturized smart sensors in invertebrate ecology and conservation.
Bick et al. describe a novel way of testing their hypothesis that an invasive predatory snail fails to drive to extinction a native, threatened non-predatory snail because both have different tolerance ranges for exposure to sunlight. They test it by developing a miniature light sensor, small enough to be carried by these snails on their shells.