Hailing from the Central Indian Ridge, the snails can ward off attacks from crabs and other menaces thanks to what its hard shell is composed of. Inside hydrothermal vents iron sulphide particles are found, and combined with a spongy middle layer it means that when something strikes it—like a mean crab's claw—it absorbs energy by allowing the shell to crack, or "microcrack" as the scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are calling it.
The shells also offer a form of attack, as well as defense. In a small way, at least. The iron sulphide will apparently make any attacking claws blunt, by grinding them down.
Whether we'll see it on the next stab-proof vests is anyone's guess, but at least we now know to avoid these scaly-foot gastropods. I'm certainly not going to eat any when I'm next in France, anyway. [New Scientist]