Discovered in 2003 around the hostile hydrothermal vents of the Indian Ocean, and drawing immediate interest from Professor Christine Ortez of MIT's Laboratory, this particular hot vent gastropod, the Trochus niloticus or more quirkily-named "scaly-foot" snail has been found to demonstrate a structural shell unlike any other naturally-occurring or synthesized armor. It is formed from three layers comprising an outer layer fortified with iron sulfide granules, a thick organic middle layer, and a calcified inner layer. Conversely, most other snail shells have a calcified layer with a thin organic coating on the outside.
How they discovered it...
So what does that mean for the snail?
... and for future body armor design?
She thinks research in this field may help engineers design improved body armor systems for humans in perilous situations, like the military or police. Additionally, she proposes that replacing weaker parts of an armor system with stronger materials could yield much tougher composites for use in armor or structural applications like automobile panels or plane wings.