Meet This Towering Iron-Armored Snail Who Lives Deep In The Ocean – Teach Me Science

Chrysomallon squamiferumthe scaly-legged snail with iron armor.

Once again the awe-inspiring biodiversity of our planet has exceeded our imaginations, although we think we know a great deal of the biological systems that inhabit the Earth with us, the reality is that biology never ceases to amaze us and there will be always a couple of organisms eager to impress us with particular and unimaginable characteristics.

Yesterday we shared with you an incredible mechanism that allows certain species to turtles breathe through their anus (better said, sewer) when they are forced to hibernate for the winter, and today it is the turn of a sea creature endowed with unparalleled iron ornamentation… As you have read!

Can you imagine that was possible?

we present to you Chrysomallon squamiferum, it is a marine snail, commonly known as a scaly-legged gastropod, scaly-legged snail, marine pangolin or volcanic snail. This species, as you may have already seen from the title and header image of this note, is iconic because it is the only known animal that uses iron to construct its carapace and part of his body.

This organism lives exclusively in hydrothermal vents (such as underwater geysers) in the depths (between 2,400 and 2,900 meters) of the Indian Ocean, and since its discovery in 2001, it stands out for its particular and robust ornamentation which so far has drawn much attention.

Se describe in National Geographic that “its shell is made up of three layers, each with different properties and composed of different minerals. Together they form a structure unlike any known armor, whether natural or artificial.”

The outer layer, visible and arguably the most striking and resistant, is coated with pyrite (FeS2) the greigita (Fe3S4), minerals composed of iron sulphides. But this impressive protective shield does not stop there, it has also been observed that the soft tissues of the animal, known as the paw, can be wrapped in these metal structures (as seen in the photos).

Chrysomallon squamiferumthe scaly-legged snail with iron armor.

This allows them to have a very resistant protection, extremely necessary for the hostile habitat in which they find themselves, in this way they specific that this shield is suited to protect the animal from scorching heat, prevent its precious minerals from dissolving in acidic water, and resist the crushing claw attacks of predatory crabs, making it undoubtedly the possessor of a exceptional armor.

The construction of this protection has a very logical explanation and that is that the active hydrothermal springs, where they live, are full of iron sulphides, components of which they take advantage to create their protection.

Finally, here we have an excellent example of the excellent characteristics that each of the biological systems are endowed with, without which, without a doubt, they could not have survived, in this case, without the composition of the shell and the cover of the snail’s foot, it would be totally vulnerable to the acidity of the water and intense heat.

Unfortunately the International Union for Conservation of Nature declared in 2018 that this species is in danger of extinction, specifically classifying it as “Endangered”, which means that there is a reduction in its population of 50 to 70%, its main threat being exploration and the extraction of polymetallic sulphide mineral resources, which form in active hydrothermal vents.

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