The unearthing of 50 species of snails in WA's north has exposed the Kimberley as one of Australia's diversity hotspots.
Scientists from the Department of Environment and Conservation and traditional Kimberley land owners had uncovered ancient camaenid land snails as part of the Kimberley islands biological survey.
Research scientist Frank Kohler said that even though the snails were small and might seem insignificant, they were an important indicator of the general condition of the islands and threats faced by other animals.
"Although science usually moves at a snail's pace, because the islands are largely unexplored by modern science it means that we are finding previously unrecorded species very quickly and there is a surprisingly high number of them," he said.
"Each island is different and tends to support a unique set of species due to its isolation by water and therefore the species form distinct groups which differ from the mainland.
"Just like kangaroos, these land snails are among the survivors of the major changes in climate that have taken place over the last few million years."
So far, 48 species of snails unique to the islands have been recorded in the survey.
All but three of the species have never been formally described.
Nine islands are still to be surveyed in the wet season, with scientists predicting more discoveries.
The survey of 22 of the largest islands in the Kimberley, designed to sample groups of mammals, reptiles, land snails, birds and plants at most risk of threats including fire, weeds, human activity and cane toads, began late 2006 and is due for completion next year.