A-z - Animals

volcano snail

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Volcanic snails can live comfortably in temperatures as high as 750 degrees Fahrenheit.


  • Volcanic snails are the only animals on Earth whose bodies are composed of mineralized iron.
  • You can pick up volcanic snails with magnets.
  • Volcanic snails can withstand temperatures up to 750 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Volcanic snails could become extinct if conservation measures are not taken when seabed mining and exploration begin. Its habitat is on the verge of being destroyed by human activities.
  • Volcanic snails don't have to eat. They have a symbiotic relationship with bacteria that live in the glands of the esophagus. These bacteria generate energy for them.
  • Volcanic snails live in deep-sea hydrothermal vents 1.5 to 1.8 miles below sea level. The air pressure here is extremely low, but the snails have adapted.
  • Volcanic snails have an underdeveloped digestive system, which is why they don't need to eat. They have a weak radula and a very simple digestive tract.
  • The esophageal glands of volcanic snails are a thousand times larger than those of other snail species. This is to accommodate endosymbiotic bacteria that meet their nutritional needs.
  • The feet of volcanic snails have hundreds of iron plates, called ossicles, attached to them. Their actual function is unknown.
  • The heart of a volcanic snail accounts for 4% of its entire body volume. That's a high percentage for any animal. The reason they have such large hearts is thought to be efficient oxygen production by endosymbiotic bacteria.
  • Volcanic snails have no eyes or tentacles.
  • The shell of a volcanic snail consists of three layers. The middle layer is organic, proteinaceous, and incredibly tough. It's so tough that scientists are obsessed with figuring out how to harness its properties to create military-grade protective gear.


Volcanic snails are one of the most unusual snail species and animals in the world. They live in iron shells, have iron filings on their feet, and do not need to eat. These scaly-footed snails live in conditions of extreme heat and pressure. They can be considered living relics because their awesome features were once very common… 5 billion years ago.

scientific name

Volcanic snails are classified as Chrysomallon squamiferum . Chrysomallon comes from the ancient Greek word meaning "golden hair", derived from the golden color of pyrite, an iron sulfide compound, which resides in the shell of a snail. The specific name, squamiferum, comes from the Latin word meaning "bearing scales," alluding to the iron plates on the snail's feet, called splints.

Volcanic snails are deep-sea snails that inhabit hydrothermal vents miles below sea level. These vents spew scalding hot mineral water, and volcanic snails adapt to the extreme conditions of this environment by encasing themselves in iron.

Volcanic snails are also commonly known as sea pangolins, scaly-footed gastropods, and scaly-footed snails. They belong to the family Gastropodidae , which is a very small family of gastropods that does not contain any subfamilies. Snails also belong to the order of the deep-sea snails, Neomphalida. Neomphalida contains only one superfamily, called Neomphaloid.

evolution and history

Over millions of years, the volcanic snail's hydrothermal habitat influenced some of its physical and dietary evolutionary traits. Mineralized iron and sulfur are infused into the shells and bodies of these snails. However, while the volcanic snail is the only animal on Earth with this incredible trait, it was a very common physical trait during the Cambrian period 540 million years ago.

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Thanks to their iron armor, volcanic snails are able to withstand harsh temperatures of 750 degrees Fahrenheit and extremely low pressure.

A study of the volcanic snail's genes shows that the genes that control its scaly feet and shell have actually not changed much over the past 540 million years. That means the genes are much older than that.

The volcanic snail also developed a huge heart, accounting for 4 percent of its body volume, an unusually large proportion. This is to provide enough oxygen to the endosymbiotic bacteria living in its stomach to meet its nutritional and energy needs.

The sea pangolin comes from the gastropod gastropod family pangolin, and the first record in history occurred in the Eocene period 47.8 million to 41.3 million years ago.


volcano snail
The feet of volcanic snails have hundreds of iron plates, called ossicles, attached to them. Their actual function is unknown.

© 2,048 × 1,266 pixels, file size: 317 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg – licensed

Volcanic snails have one of the most unique and bizarre bodies in the animal kingdom. It is the only animal species whose body is made of mineralized iron. Because the snail lives in hydrothermal vents miles deep in the ocean, it experiences enormous atmospheric pressure and temperatures as high as 750 degrees Fahrenheit. It adapts to these conditions by forming a body that can withstand and protect it.

their shells

The sea pangolin's shell is made up of three layers: an outer layer, a middle layer, and an inner layer.

The outer shell of the volcanic snail is made of iron sulfide, the only animal whose skeleton contains this substance. The shell is 30 nm thick and black in color.

The middle layer of the shell is the waterproof organic layer of the periosteum, or gastropod "skin." It's thick, brown, and made from a variety of proteins, namely conch. The middle layer of the snail shell is tough and protects the body from physical stress and tension, such as a predator attack. It also serves to dissipate excess heat.

The inner layer of the shell is milky white due to the presence of aragonite, a type of calcium carbonate. The shell of the sea pangolin has three threads, and the mouth of the shell is oval.

their feet

Snail feet are one of the most characteristic features of volcanic snails. Its sides are reinforced by hundreds of iron bone plates, each measuring about 1 to 5 millimeters. These bone fragments are hard masses of calcified mineralized iron with soft tissue in each core. The outermost layer of the steel plate is composed of pyrite, iron sulfide, and sulfide. The bony flakes make the snail's feet look like scales, hence its nickname, "scaly-footed gastropod." The function of the bone fragments is currently unknown. The body of the volcanic snail is red.

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their guts

The guts of volcanic snails are also different from many snail and animal species. Its heart is really big, and we don't mean its kindness. Its heart accounts for about 4 percent of its body volume, which is large for any animal. In comparison, the human heart accounts for only 0.3% of our body volume.

The digestive system of the sea pangolin is simple and lacks development. Zoologists believe that it does not eat, so it relies on endosymbiotic bacteria to generate energy for it. Snails have an esophageal gland where these bacteria live. It also has a stomach, a reduced intestine, and an anus that sits above the opening to the genitals.

Volcanic snails have no eyes or tentacles.


Due to the harsh environment, little information is available on the behavior and habits of volcanic snails.

Squamoped gastropods live in hydrothermal vents in the Indian Ocean. Here, they interact with other often venomous snail species and crabs that prey on volcanic snails.

It's unclear if the snails lead solitary lives, but it's possible, especially given the fact that they are hermaphrodites. They do not need to mate with other snails to reproduce.

Volcanic snails also lead a sedentary lifestyle. Because they cooperate with endosymbiotic bacteria to meet their nutritional needs, they don't need to hunt for prey. Their digestive system is underdeveloped by any means, so they are not active creatures.


An interesting fact about volcanic snails is that they don't need to eat to survive. While that sounds impossible, it's a completely normal life for a snail. Volcanic snails are obligate symbionts.

After the larval stage, all their nutrition comes not from eating but from endosymbiotic bacteria. These bacteria make their own food through a process called chemoautotrophy or chemosynthesis.

Volcanic snails have an esophageal gland that houses endosymbiotic bacteria. This gland is about a thousand times larger than those of other snails and can properly house the bacteria. It also had a stomach filled with pellets, possibly sulfur pellets made by bacteria, that detoxify hydrogen sulfide.

Habitat and Population

The volcanic snail is endemic to Africa, especially the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. This snail has hydrothermal vent origin and inhabits deep-sea ridges.

The range of activity of volcanic snails is limited. It occupies hydrothermal vents deep in the Indian Ocean. Snails live at a depth of 1.5 to 1.8 miles below sea level, under severe atmospheric pressure. To put that in perspective, humans can only survive about 22 miles underwater before our bones are crushed under the pressure.

Volcanic snails inhabit three recorded locations: Longcheer Jet Field, Kairei Jet Field, and Solitaire Jet Field. The main difference between the three ventilation fields is the concentration level of iron. Information on the volcanic snails that live in these areas is difficult to obtain due to the inaccessibility of these sites. However, large populations of Chrysomallon squamiferum have been reported in the Longchee ventilation field.

However, according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the volcanic snail is an endangered species. Its habitat is under threat due to human activities such as deep sea mining and exploration.

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Reproduction and Lifespan

Like many other snail species, volcanic snails are hermaphroditic at the same time. This means it has both male and female sex organs. It is the only species in the family Peltospiridae that is also hermaphroditic. Volcanic snails practice self-fertilization.

The eggs laid by the volcanic snail do not depend on the mother for nutrition, only rely on the yolk sac for nutrition. Their eggs are also negatively buoyant, meaning they are heavier than water.

Volcanic snails may have a larval or planktonic life stage after the eggs hatch, but this is speculation. Due to the rarity and narrow distribution range of volcanic snails, it is not easy to be studied. The intricate details of its reproductive life cycle are still being studied.

The lifespan of volcanic snails is unknown, but sea snails can often live up to a decade or more in the wild. Volcanic snails do not do well in an aquarium setting and will only survive for more than three weeks in one environment.

Predators and Threats

Due to their location in deep-sea hydrothermal habitats, scaly-foot gastropods do not have many natural enemies. However, it does have some known predators: other venomous snails and crabs that inhabit the area. The volcanic snail's shell seemingly protects it from attack, but it can still be injured or killed by an attacker. These animals not only prey on the volcanic snail, but also compete with it for living space.

The main threat to volcanic snails is habitat loss from seabed mining. At present, two of the three sites where the snail inhabits have been approved to start the mining exploration program, namely the Longqi and Kairui vent areas. Seabed mining disrupts the ecosystem and ventilation field temperatures to which volcanic snails are adapted. There are no safeguards in place to ensure the future of scaly-foot gastropods.

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Volcanic snails are not poisonous. They're not considered dangerous, but even if they were, it's okay. Unless you're planning a deep-sea expedition, you won't get close to these creatures.

Volcanic snails are native to Africa, especially the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. This snail has hydrothermal vent origin and inhabits deep-sea ridges.

Volcanic snails don't eat. Instead, they rely on energy produced by endosymbiotic bacteria in their bodies to survive.

Volcanic snails are preyed on by crabs and poisonous snails that live in their habitat.

Volcanic snails are endangered due to human activity. Their habitat is on the verge of collapse due to seabed mining.

Volcanic snails can withstand temperatures up to 750 degrees Fahrenheit.

Volcanic snails belong to the kingdom Animalia .

Volcanic snails belong to the phylum Mollusca.

Volcanic snails belong to the class Gastropoda .

Volcanic snails belong to the order Neomphalida .

Volcanic snails belong to the family Peltospiridae .

Volcanic snails belong to the genus Chrysomallon .