"Hydrothermal vents support a unique fauna that's giving us exciting insights into evolution, adaptation, and the early history of life on Earth," said Callum Roberts, a mollusk expert at the University of York, England. "These vents represent an outstandingly rich natural ecosystem that we should cherish and protect as vigorously as any of our national parks on land," he added.
Mary Seddon, a World Conservation Union (IUCN) mollusk specialist and biodiversity scientist at the National Museums and Galleries of Wales in Cardiff, said: "It's only been with the [recent] advent of remotely operated vehicles that we've been able to sample these [secluded] habitats." Such habitats are turning up some highly unusual creatures exquisitely adapted to living in harsh conditions, she said.
The researchers suspect that the snail's armor plating could be a defense against other predatory snails that co-exist in the vent community. Warren, the study leader, said the scales look like they would effectively block the specialized teeth predator snails use to inject venom.
As Roberts noted: "This is yet another extraordinary beast from a remarkable habitat."
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