Sci-Tech

Awww. Lonely mutant snail finds love with matchmaker's help

A one-in-a-million snail with a strange shell makes a romantic connection with the help of a determined scientist.

Jeremy gets acquainted with Lefty.

Angus Davison

Jeremy is a common brown garden snail with a twist. His shell spirals anti-clockwise, as compared with the clockwise spiral of almost all of his kin, making him an outlier in a world of right-coiled snails. With a little help and lot of love, Jeremy now has a perfect match named Lefty.

Angus Davison, an evolutionary genetics scientist at the University of Nottingham in the UK, is the Tinder of the snail world. Davison describes Jeremy as "literally one in a million" and last month sent out an appeal for the public to keep an eye out for a matching mate. Snails are hermaphrodites, but researchers sometimes call them "him" for convenience.

Jeremy was originally found in a retired scientist's garden. Lefty, who had a first date with Jeremy this month, comes from the collection of snail enthusiast Jade Sanchez Melton, who has more than 300 snails that live in tanks and aquariums. She found Lefty on a tree about a year ago.

"Scientifically speaking, this is something which I believe has never been done and I am going to be fascinated to see whether breeding these two snails will result in more lefties or whether their offspring will feature the more common clockwise coiling shells," Melton says.

The world is watching Jeremy's love blossom with an enthusiasm normally reserved for celebrity tabloid gossip. The snail has been dubbed a "shell-ebrity" and now has his own Twitter account, @leftysnail.

Davison shares updates on Jeremy's activities on his own Twitter account, with some messages bordering on too-much-information territory.

Davison studies snail genetics and worked with a team of researchers to identify the gene that causes a snail's shell to be either clockwise or counterclockwise. This has implications for human genetics studies.

The University of Nottingham notes that the research, published in Current Biology in February, is an "important step in understanding how our organs are placed asymmetrically within the body and why this process can sometimes go wrong when some or all of the major internal organs are reversed or mirrored from their normal placement in the body."

In the meantime, scientists and snail fans are rooting for Jeremy and Lefty's love connection to work out. As of yet, the two are still in flirtation mode, but haven't sealed the deal. We're all wondering what the kids will look like. Here's hoping they inherit the same shell swirl with swagger.