To the human eye, Jeremy doesn’t look that different from most snails, but to other snails he is rather unique.
Due to a genetic mutation, Jeremy’s shell swirls counterclockwise and his sex organs are located on the left side of his head, the opposite arrangement of most snails. According to NPR, this rare “lefty” look has made it nearly impossible for Jeremy to find a mate, because his sex organs don’t align with those of other snails.
Luckily, Jeremy found a friend in Angus Davison of the University of Nottingham, who is working with a team to find out what gene creates this one in 100,000 anomaly. One of the best ways to do this is to study Jeremy’s offspring. But first the snail has to have offspring, which requires another counterclockwise snail.
To find a mate for the lovelorn snail, Davison asked the public for help on Twitter, attaching the hashtag #snaillove to his plea.
“We didn’t really know how big a hope it would be, or the chances of success, to find one,” Davison told NPR about his “shellebrity.” “But it worked — we found two.”
The two lucky ladies belong to snail enthusiasts who saw the tweet; one is named Lefty and is the pet of a Ipswich, U.K., woman, and the other was found by a snail farmer in Majorca, Spain, who discovered the rarity in a pile of snails about to be cooked.
So far, Jeremy has just met Lefty. The pair seems to be on the road to mating, a bizarre process for snails.
Snail mating first starts with some flirtatious biting, followed by “traumatic insemination,” in which each snail stabs the other with “love darts.” Since snails are simultaneous hermaphrodites, both female and male at the same, both of the snails produce offspring after this act.
This sexual makeup also allows snails to reproduce with themselves, but inbreeding is often avoided.
Once Jeremy and Lefty (hopefully) mate, the research team is interested in seeing if they will produce counterclockwise-shelled “children.” Answers to what cause this genetic mutation could go on to help scientists understand physical symmetry in a variety of animals, humans included.
More good news for Jeremy: regardless of the outcome with Lefty, Davison’s team plans to introduce Jeremy to the Spanish snail as well.