Scaly-Foot Snail

The scaly foot snail is not one you’d come across in your backyard garden. In fact, you wouldn’t find it in any garden at tall – it’s a marine mollusk, found only in the Indian Ocean. Not only that, they have been found only in four locations in that ocean, near hydrothermal vents over a mile below sea level. The conditions there are harsh, with crushing pressure and temperatures that reach 750° F. Not surprisingly, the scaly-foot snail is both unique and very rare.

Photo credit – Kentaro Nakamura, et al

This snail acquired its name because of the scales on its foot, that resemble a suit of armor. That is also how it got its nickname – the sea pangolin. It builds these scales, as well as the outer layer of its shell, to protect its soft squishy body by pulling iron sulfides from the water. Inside that soft squishy body is a large heart, relative to the snail’s body size. This helps the snail to survive in a habitat with little oxygen.

In addition to all of the above, researchers who have studied the snail do not think it actually eats. Instead it hosts bacteria provided by the vents in a large gland and lives off the energy produced by the microbes. Essentially the snail farms its own food in its gut, making the scaly-foot snail a chemoautotroph (new word!).