The iron-encrusted triple-layered shell of a deep-sea snail could inspire scientists to design a new generation of military materials for soldiers and vehicles.

According to a team of scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the shell of the so-called “scaly-foot” snail is unlike any other naturally occurring or human-made armour.

Scientists say copying the snail’s microstructure could help develop protection materials for soldiers, tanks and helicopters.

The shell is made of three composite layers, an outer layer embedded with iron sulfide granules, a thick organic middle layer and a calcified inner layer.

The tri-layered shell helps the snail to dissipate mechanical energy from potentially penetrating predatory attacks.

Military scientists are developing new materials that could be used for bulletproof vests and protective coatings for vehicles.

The deep-sea hydrothermal vent snail Crysomallon squamiferum was discovered in 2003 in the Indian Ocean.