Is there a Match.com for gastropods? Because if there is, “Jeremy,” a rare left-handed variant of what the Torygraph says is a garden snail (Cornu aspersa) needs to put up his profile pronto:
Left-handed garden snail seeks mate for companionable dinners (no garlic butter!), long crawls on the beach, and, above all, mating. No right-handed snails need apply.
Most land snails have right-handed coiling, but the Torygraph reports that researchers at Nottingham University found a rare, left-handed variant: a one in a million find. Naming it “Jeremy” (these are hemaphrodites), they started a worldwide search for another left-handed snail, because, for reasons shown just below, lefties can only mate with lefties, and righties with righties:
Alas, poor Jeremy was a big-time loser. As the Washington Post reports:
And just weeks later, after drawing international attention, Jeremy’s love story appeared to reach a fairytale ending. Not one, but two left-coiling mates came forward: “Lefty,” a snail owned by a collector in England, and “Tomeu,” a snail rescued at a restaurant while awaiting a fate as a menu item.
As winter hibernation came to a close, Davison hoped the heat would turn up for Jeremy and one of his two possible mates.
“But in a tragic twist, Jeremy has been left shellshocked after being given the cold shoulder by both of his suitors,” Davison said.
That’s right, Jeremy was thrust into a love triangle. The other two snails took a liking to each other, leaving Jeremy a bachelor once more. Lefty and Tomeu began copulating, and now have produced about 170 eggs between them, Davison announced Wednesday.
“We liken it to when you’re interested in someone romantically and you end up introducing that person to your best friend,” Davison said. This first batch of eggs to hatch were “fathered” by Lefty and laid by Tomeu in April. (Snails are hermaphrodites so they can take on the role of either mother or father.) Two more batches of eggs — another laid by Tomeu and one laid by Lefty and fathered by Tomeu — will soon be hatching.
The curious thing is that all the offspring of Lefty and Tomeu have right-handed coiling! How could that be? Well, it’s an interesting story of snail genetics and how the genes for coiling are inherited and activated, but I’ll let a reader fill in that part.
Here’s Jeremy along with a snail of opposite coiling:
And Lefty and Tomeu mating (TRIGGER WARNING: SEX: NSFW!) Poor Jeremy!
As of last May, the aging Jeremy was still a virgin. Lefty went back to hir owner (these are rarities), but the researchers still hope that Jeremy and Tomeu will mate. With further judicious crosses, they could produce an entire race of left-handed snails, and they’d in effect be producing a new species, since members of that group couldn’t mate with the right-handed type.