The world’s smallest computer solves an evolutionary mystery Trends21

The world's smallest computer solves an evolutionary mystery Trends21

A computer measuring just 0.3 mm on one side has solved the mystery of the mass extinction of snails in a Polynesian archipelago. Attached to the bark and leaves of trees, he discovered that sunlight prevents molluscs from disappearing.

In 2015, the University of Michigan announced that it had produced it The world’s smallest computer, The smallest appearance next to the rice grain: it is 0.3 mm on one side.

With a wireless processor, transmitter and receiver, the so-called Michigan Micro Mode (M3) receives and transmits data with visible light.

It is a fully autonomous computer system that functions as an intelligent detection system. It contains solar cells that power the battery with ambient light.

Initially designed as an accurate temperature sensor to evaluate cancer treatments, its first real use took place six years later to solve the mystery of survivors of mass extinction.

In the 1970s, a Polynesian archipelago in the South Pacific known as the Society Islands was invaded by a predatory snail, which killed 50 species of native snails.

Human behavior

This catastrophe was the result of human behavior, which introduced the African Land Snail Society to the islands, where it was cultivated as a source of food.

This snail turned into a big insect that feeds on different plants. To control their population, agronomists introduced another species of snail in 1974 called the pink wolf (Euclandina Rosa), Native to South America, is a powerful snail eater.

The pink wolf snail is included in 100 invasive alien creatures The most harmful in the world, According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Once introduced to the Society Islands, most of the known 61 species of native wood snails were easily preyed upon by the pink wolf.

Related topic: Exchange of memories between the brains of sea snails


However, a type of gastropod mollusk known as Barthula hylina with a white shell escaped the catastrophe, and no one knows why.

Evolutionary biologists Cindy Big and Diarmaid Ó Fogill, of the University of Michigan, b.

To test that hypothesis, b. Hyalina and pink wolf snails should monitor the amount of light exposure experienced on a typical day.

To achieve this, they had to connect light sensors with snails, but the commercially available chips were much larger.

The best way to measure the light intensity of snail habitats is with M3: it can measure light levels consistently.

Using magnets, pink wolf snails and b. M3s were attached to both hyaline sleeping leaves. At the end of the day, the collected data was downloaded wirelessly.

Thanks to the sun

In this way, the researchers check that, at noon, b. Hylina’s habitat received an average of 10 times more sunlight than the pink wolf snails.


“We were able to get data that no one else could,” says David Blow, a professor at the University of Michigan’s College of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Release.

“That’s why we had a small computer system that was small enough to stick to a snail,” he adds.

“Detection computers help us understand how to protect wildlife on islands,” says Cindy Big.

“If these habitats can be mapped and protected through appropriate conservation measures, ways can be found to ensure the survival of the species,” he concludes.


Millimeter-sized smart sensors reveal that a solar shelter protects the wood snail Bartula hyena from extinction. Cindy S. Big et al. Communication Biology, Volume 4, Article No: 744 (2021). DOI: https: //

Pictured above: A pink wolf horn marked and fitted with the Michigan Micro Mode computer system, at the Futawau-Thunder Valley site in Tahiti. Image Credit: Inhee Lee

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