The 27 Best Deep-Sea Species: #4 Gold-Footed or Scaly Foot Snail

Gold-Footed or Scaly Foot Snail (Phylum Mollusca, Class Gastropoda, Order Neomphalina, tentatively
Crysomallon squamiferum)

Hydrothermal vents possess a molluscan fauna that is both unique and fascinating.  This fauna includes over 30 limpet species and several newly described species of gastropods.  A gastropod first described in 2003 may be the most interesting find thus far at a hydrothermal vent.  I admit my bias here, as most of my interest lies with studying deep-sea gastropods.  Nonetheless, the discovery of ‘gold-footed" snails a the Kairei vent field in the the Indian Ocean is fascinating (Waren et al. 2003, Science, also see McClain 2005, American Conchologist)

At this point I should state that the foot of the snail is mineralized with pyrite and greigite.  Many of you might note the misnomer here, as pyrite is only ‘Fool’s Gold,’ but in deciding on a temporary common name Fool’s Gold-Footed Snail seemed a bit lengthy.  I hope all will forgive the intentional misonomer for the sake of creative writing.

The scales, or sclerites, that cover the entire length of the  snail’s foot can be up to 8mm long. The presence of mineralized scales is remarkable in itself, but the existence of iron sulfide as skeletal material is unknown from any other animal.  The purity of sulfides, among other lines of evidence, suggest that the building of the scales is controlled by the gastropod itself. The sclerites are thought to have evolved recently and be homologous to the operculum.  It is thought they may serve as a defense against cone shells also occurring at the vent. – CRM


Dr. M (1720 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, created to facilitate research to address fundamental questions in evolutionary science. He has conducted deep-sea research for 11 years and published over 40 papers in the area. He has participated in dozens of expeditions taking him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses mainly on marine systems and particularly the biology of body size, biodiversity, and energy flow. He focuses often on deep-sea systems as a natural test of the consequences of energy limitation on biological systems. He is the author and chief editor of Deep-Sea News, a popular deep-sea themed blog, rated the number one ocean blog on the web and winner of numerous awards. Craig’s popular writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.

4 comments on “The 27 Best Deep-Sea Species: #4 Gold-Footed or Scaly Foot Snail
  1. Wow. I’m really enjoying this series, guys… it makes me think of Hamlet: ‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’

  2. Pingback: The Evolution of Iron-Clad Samurai Snails With Gold Feet | Deep Sea News

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