Have you ever heard of a snail that can survive in scorching hot water, near boiling magma, and under immense pressure? Meet the volcano snail1, a remarkable creature that lives in one of the most extreme environments on Earth.
The volcano snail2, also known as scaly-foot gastropod3, sea pangolin1, or lava snail2, is a species of deep-sea snail that inhabits hydrothermal vents in the Indian Ocean. These vents are cracks in the ocean floor where superheated water and minerals gush out from the Earth’s crust.
What makes the volcano snail so special is its unique adaptation to this harsh environment: it has a shell and scales made of iron123! The snail absorbs iron sulfide from its surroundings and incorporates it into its body, creating a metallic armor that protects it from predators and high temperatures4.
The volcano snail is also one of the few animals that does not rely on sunlight for energy. Instead, it hosts symbiotic bacteria in a gland near its heart4. The bacteria use chemicals from the vent water to produce organic molecules that feed the snail. This process is called chemosynthesis and it allows life to thrive in places where photosynthesis is impossible.
Unfortunately, the volcano snail is also one of the most endangered animals on Earth. It is only known from three locations in the Indian Ocean and its habitat is threatened by deep-sea mining activities1. The iron-rich deposits that attract miners are also home to these amazing snails and other rare species.
The volcano snail is a fascinating example of how life can adapt to extreme conditions and how biodiversity can be found even in the most unlikely places. It deserves our attention and protection before it disappears forever.