In 2017, a rose wolf snail wandered along the steps of sunlight in Tahiti with an unexpected traveler: a bespoke computer, the size of an aphid, a delicate screw on its shell like its top.

This particular species of snail is associated with the extinction of 134 species of snails worldwide. Decades ago people introduced the carnivorous rosy wolf snail to Tahiti, and few of the predatory species survived.

But one Tahitian breed managed to survive in dozens of valleys on the island: a small yogurt-colored snail, Partula hyalina. “There must be something special about them,” said Cindy Beck, a researcher at the University of Michigan.

Now, the pink wolf shell and p. With solar data collected from some of the world’s smallest computers connected to Hyalina’s leafy habitat, Dr. Bick and his colleagues learned how p. The pale shell of the hyaline has enabled the species to become extinct. Their results were published in Communications Biology in June.

In 2012, when Dr. Bick was still a graduate student, having a Ph.D. Began investigating the mystery of Hylina’s existence. Together, they published a 2014 paper suggesting a greater clutch of the species’ offspring, which allowed it to survive better than other species. P. This was not even enough to explain Hyalina’s rare success. “He does more than survive,” said Dr. Foigil.

Most land snails prefer shade. Like many species, the dark-clad rosy wolf snail, if left in the sun, will dry up like a shock. But Dr. While researching in the field journals of early 20th century melanologists, Bick read that p. Hyalina is often found on the edge of the forest, where the trees are thin in the sunlight.

Dr. Bick and Dr .. Foigil began to think: If p. While Hyalina’s milky shell can reflect back and tolerate more sunlight, Sunny One Fringes offers a safe shelter free of pink wolves. They need a way to measure how much sunlight each species receives each day.

While both zoologists were considering snails, on campus, David Blau’s engineering lab built the world’s smallest computer with a battery: a 2-by-5-by-2 millimeter sensor slightly larger than an aphid. Sensors receive data with visible light and transmit it via radio.

Many years later, Dr. Blau’s team received a request that was answered: to connect Tahiti’s small computers to carnivorous snails. Dr. Bik’s proposal seemed perfect – an opportunity to test sensors in the real world with close associates and to help with a project that could advance wildlife conservation.

To prepare the sensor for the snail, Dr. Blowney added a small energy razor to the lab with solar cells so that the sensor could recharge its batteries in the sun. The system included epoxy to make the sensor waterproof, protect it from severe light, and cushion it with the average snail’s rough-tumble life.

They had a problem. They needed to pay small computers with the power to measure light but the system should be kept free of large batteries that would flatten the snail. Inhi Lee, now an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Pittsburgh who helped solve the puzzle at the time of researcher Dr. Blau’s Lab. Dr. Lee and Dr. Blue easily reused the harvester and measured the speed of its solar charge as a proxy for sunlight.

Using some invasive snails found in Michigan gardens, the researchers first tried to shell the computer with magnets and velcro and failed until they could figure out how to glue the metal nut to the surface and drive the sensor into the nut. Then the snail and its little passengers were ready for the weather with virtual elements (in buckets of water).

In August 2017, Dr. Bick and Dr. Lee arrived in Tahiti with 55 sensors. He traveled from valley to valley under the guidance of Trevor Coates, a writer on paper and an expert on this land snail, based in Tahiti. (Dr. Kote died on February 19, 2021 at Kovid.)

Every day, researchers spend hours searching for snails to make sure they can’t escape. Sometimes, it rained on them. They have p. Hylina was not allowed to connect the computer, which is considered dangerous, so they hung the camera directly with the snail on the sleeping leaf during the day, essentially finding out how much sunlight the Cecil snail receives. But the computer-filled pink wolf snail proved to be a difficult challenge, as the mollusks were slow-moving but determined to graze (one snail escaped for a few days with the sensor).

P. Data from sensors at Hyalina’s habitat show that Rosie wolves received an average of 10 times more sunlight than snails. This confirmed the researchers’ hypothesis that bright conditions protected pale snails from pink snails.

The pink wolf snail was introduced in the Society Islands in the 1970s with the goal of controlling another invading, large African land snail. But the pink wolf terror rendered many species of tree snails extinct in the islands.

“I grew up around this environment and heard myths and stories depicting animals and plants that are now either extinct or on the verge of extinction if we don’t act quickly to protect them,” said Dr. Bick, who is in the Pacific. Islander. He added that he hopes that this research will help P. in the Society Islands. Supports Hyalina’s efforts to maintain solar shelters.

“Mostly, we talk about dead and dead things,” said Dr. Bike. “This is a story of resilience.”