It Looks Like a Metallic Toy, But It's An Awesome Creature That Lurks In The Deep

It Looks Like a Metallic Toy, But It’s An Awesome Creature That Lurks In The Deep

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There is a place below the surface of the Indian Ocean. Here lie hydrothermal vents that spit scalding water into the sea. These vents, heated by the Earth’s magma, erupt in inky black jets and generally seems like inhospitable places to call home.

But if you are the Chrysomallon squamiferum, or scaly-foot gastropod, you like these places very much. These snails find this part of the world quite cozy and have developed a number of pretty insane adaptations for living in such a place. Look at these things and you will be surprised.

Yes, it’s stylish, it’s called scaly-foot gastropod.   heavy-metal-snail-0

It doesn’t just have a shell. For example, this creature’s shell is covered in a layer of iron. And those fringy bits on the rest of its body? Those are hard, mineralized scales made of iron sulphides. This animal is literally wearing armor, and is the only animal on the planet currently known to use iron like this.

Here it is in all its scaly-footed glory   heavy-metal-snail-1

Their shells are mainly covered in pyrite, commonly known as “fool’s gold,” and greigite, which is magnetic. The metals in their bodies come from the vents, which are mineral-rich, spewing metals and sulphides up from the interior of the Earth.

It’s kind of like a tiny tank. The little pink protrusions are its face.   heavy-metal-snail-2

Hey, how do you do?   heavy-metal-snail-3

They’re also really good climbers.   heavy-metal-snail-4

The scaly-foot gastropod was first discovered in 2001 at a depth of more than two kilometers in the Indian Ocean. There are actually two varieties of these snails living in different hydrothermal vent fields. In the Kairei field, the snails are black and iron-rich, and are actually magnetic as a result. In the Solitaire field, the snails lack iron and are white, lacking magnetic properties.

Because it has iron integrated into its body, the scaly-foot gastropod is magnetic!   heavy-metal-snail-6

Yes, those are magnets sticking to the snail. The snail seems a bit confused by this. Though it’s been known for over a decade, the scaly-foot gastropod was finally given an official, scientific name: Chrysomallon squamiferum. Currently, the Oxford University Museum of Natural History has five specimens of snails that they’ll employ for research and education, and, we can only assume, sticking tiny magnets on for fun.

Nature is awesome, isn’t it?
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