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 (1801 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Executive Director of the Lousiana University Marine Consortium. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Additionally, Craig is obsessed with the size of things. Sometimes this translated into actually scientific research. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (, a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His 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 Replies to “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.’

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