There are things about the island of Cuba that don’t make the news—for example, it has the world’s largest biodiversity of snails.

The painted snail, polymita, is one of the most beautiful invertebrates on Earth and found only on this Caribbean island. Its shell is a wondrous spiral—all in colors of peach, lemon-lime, vermillion, blood orange, red ochre, and even pink.

Unfortunately the illegal wildlife trade has brought all six species of polymita to the point of being critically endangered, as recommended by Cuban wildlife researchers.

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Recently, National Geographic reported on the love of polymita by the Italian photographer Bruno D’Amicis, who traveled to the island in order to photograph them in their natural habitat. He hopes to draw attention to the fact that demand for the snail shells in Cuba and abroad as colorful trinkets is driving them to extinction.

Scientists know that they live in a small vegetated coastal belt along the eastern shore of Cuba, but they don’t know how many there are, or even if they’ve discovered all of the existing species.

In their natural environment, the painted snails live in trees and shrubs devouring mineral-rich moss and lichen, the source of their brilliant colors. Their incessant eating of this vegetation help keep trees healthy, including on coffee farms—a huge part of the Cuban economy.

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