Monday 21 August 2017

Jeremy the lonely snail got caught in a love triangle and things got pretty awkward...

Events took an unexpected turn.

By Nilima Marshall

You may remember not so long ago, there was a lonely snail called Jeremy who was searching for love.

Then, thanks to a public appeal on social media that pulled everyone’s heartstrings, two potential mates were unearthed and lined up for this “lefty” mollusc whose shell spirals in an anti-clockwise direction, unlike regular snails.

Well, you’d expect Jeremy to live happily ever after, but something rather awkward happened.

The two “lefty” snails who were supposed to be Jeremy’s potential lovers fell for each other instead and have produced their first offspring.

Yep that’s right, more than 170 baby snails have hatched after parents Lefty and Tomeu got together, leaving Jeremy resigned to his fate as the loving uncle to their offspring.

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In case you are wondering how on earth did this happen – snails are hermaphrodites, meaning they can fulfil both roles as mother and father. The first batch of eggs to hatch were “fathered” by Lefty and laid by Tomeu.

Researchers from the University of Nottingham, who launched a public appeal on behalf of a lonely Jeremy six months ago, have been observing the trio, wondering if any offspring from them would also turn out to be lefties.

Sinistral or lefty snails are rare. They are a mirror image of how other snails appear.

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Lefty, Tomeu and Jeremy’s shells spiral in an anti-clockwise direction – which means they are unable to mate with snails whose shells spiral the opposite way.

But unfortunately none of the baby snails have followed in the left-coiling footsteps of their parents.

Lead researcher Dr Angus Davison said: “The fact that the babies developed right-coiling shells may be because the mother carries both the dominant and recessive versions of the genes that determine shell-coiling direction.

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“Body asymmetry in snails is inherited in a similar way to bird shell colour – only the mother’s genes determine the direction of the twist of the shell, or the colour of a bird egg.

“It is far more likely that we will get to see left-coiling babies produced in the next generation or even the generation after that.”

Last year, Davison and colleagues revealed they had discovered a gene that determines whether a snail’s shell twists in a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction. It appears the same gene also affects body asymmetry in other animals – including humans.

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But back to Jeremy – you will be pleased to know that all is not lost.

Lefty has since returned to his home in Ipswich and Davison is still hopeful that Jeremy might be back in business and mate with Tomeu.

And, hopefully, there will be some cute left-coiling babies.

Press Association

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