London, August 21 : One of Britain's most recently discovered species - a type of Italian snail, has been found in the country after a gap of 110 years.
According to a report in the Times, Papillifera papillaris, the snail in question, arrived in England near the end of the 19th century, having hitched a ride on a stone balustrade imported from Rome.
But subsequently, it disappeared.
A colony of the tiny snails, which have distinctive spindle-shaped shells 11mm long, has now been found on the "tortoise fountain" in the Italian-style gardens of the Cliveden Estate, Buckinghamshire.
The visitors were discovered by volunteers who were cleaning statues in the formal gardens of the mansion, which today is a hotel.
The snail, which has no formal English name and has been nicknamed "the Cliveden snail", had remained hidden since its arrival on a large marble and brick balustrade shipped from the gardens of the Villa Borghese in 1896.
That works out a movement of 25cm a year.
Jane Ridout Sharpe, a snail expert, helped to identify the tiny creature, several hundred of which can be found in the crevices and carved details of the stonework.
It appeared to have taken the snails more than 100 years to make it some 27m downhill to the terrace steps that lead to the parterre in the ornamental gardens.
The creature is common in the Mediterranean, where it is often found in old buildings. It is thought to have spread to Malta, again having been accidentally transported with marble imports from Italy.
According to Matthew Oates, the National Trust's conservation adviser, "For this small colony of snails to remain undiscovered for more than 100 years, despite thousands of people visiting Cliveden every year, is remarkable."
"It really is a case of hidden nature revealing itself to the world after remaining in splendid isolation for so long, and demonstrates how important our built structures can be for wildlife. Discoveries like this are rare and it's a chance for us to celebrate the amazing nature of wildlife," he added.
"Although the 'Cliveden snail' hitched a ride to the UK accidentally, it doesn't appear to be a threat to our native wildlife, as it has taken one hundred years to get from the balustrade to the house, so we're now working to ensure that it has a secure future at Cliveden," said Oates.
The Italian snail is the fourth species of fauna new to Britain to be found at National Trust properties since 2003 - along with a mistletoe bug, a paper wasp and a species of small fly.