Snails Riding Submarines Threaten Ocean Ecosystems

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While much of the world's oceans remain a vast and mysterious place, one of the planet's slowest moving creatures has enlisted the latest of human technology to conquer these regions more efficiently. But, as it turns out, they don't come alone.

For decades, scientists have deployed deep-sea submarines to uncover new species in our uncharted aquatic ecosystems, often with the mission to preserve those fragile lifeforms from outside threats -- though in some cases, they may actually be doing more harm than good.

According to a new report from Australian Geographic, some species of aquatic snail found in the ocean's murky depths, known as limpets, have started to realize that hitching a ride on our visiting underwater vessels might be the best way to get around. Unfortunately, however, in many cases these sluggish stowaways have stowaways of their own. A parasite, once isolated to a single limpet population, has been using this free-ride to threaten a broader ecosystem.

Experts worry that this localized parasite could go on to do some pretty horrible things to limpets elsewhere.

"It actually castrates this limpet," says Amanda Bates from the University of Tasmania's Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies said. "So, essentially, that animal becomes this parasite because it's basically being driven around by this parasite. It's awful."

Tags: Oceans