Jeremy was a left-coiled snail who was fondly named after left-wing politician Jeremy Corbyn. Because of his peculiar shell shape, it was difficult for him to find a mate. But this did not stop biologists, who were very intrigued by him. They searched all over the world but was the hunt successful?
Scientists were able to find two potential mates for the unique left-coiled snail named Jeremy. It wasn’t easy to find mates for him because his organs developed the other way around. Unfortunately, the potential snails mated with each other.
Jeremy, the Left-Coiled Snail
In 2016, a retired scientist from the Natural History Museum spotted a snail with unique traits around a compost heap in Rayne’s Park in southwest London. His discovery caught the attention of Dr. Angus Davison.
Davison is a scientist who is specifically interested in snail genetics, and this discovery riled up his curiosity. Davison contacted the retired scientist and requested that the snail be sent to him for further analysis. When the doctor received the unique snail, he named it Jeremy, even though snails are generally hermaphrodites.
Davison discovered that Jeremy was born with a rare genetic condition called a sinistral mutation, genetically left-sided. The snail’s shell spirals anti-clockwise. Jeremy’s condition does not only affect the appearance of his shell. It also means that his sex organs are also on the wrong side, making it virtually impossible to mate with a regular snail.
Snails mate face-to-face, sliding past each other on the right-hand side so that their genitalia can meet. Since Jeremy’s organ is on the left, no regular snail would be able to mate with him. (Source: Telegraph)
Finding Jeremy a Mate
Davison and several other scientists asked gardeners across the UK for help, requesting that they look for snails in their gardens and farms with the same anti-clockwise shell. (Source: Telegraph)
The search expanded on a global scale, with Jeremy becoming an instant media sensation. Davison mentioned in interviews that the rarity of a left-coiled snail is that there is another lefty in every 100,000 snails. But Davison was optimistic that they would find a mate for Jeremy.
Davison’s call to action resulted in not only one but two possible mates for Jeremy. The first one, Lefty, came from a snail enthusiast in Ipswich, UK. Lefty was the enthusiast’s pet. The second one came all the way from Majorca, Spain. Tomeu, the name given to the second snail, came from a snail farmer and restaurateur in Majorca.
Lefty and Tomeu joined Jeremy in the lab but were reported as not having mated. The scientists put them all in a fridge for a few months to simulate the usual snail hibernation during winter.
After the hibernation, researchers reported that Lefty and Tomeu were active but found that Jeremy didn’t have much energy. Scientists discovered that Lefty and Tomeu mated, excluding Jeremy in the process. Despite this, Davison and his team were delighted since they had about three batches of eggs produced.
What disappointed the scientists is that all of the offspring produced by the two left-coiled snails were just regular snails. Their coils developed clockwise. And what’s worse, Jeremy still hasn’t mated. (Source: NPR)
Finally, Jeremy and Tomeu mated. Davison recounts that the two snails produced a batch of 56 baby snails. However, all baby snails were still regular snails, no lefties. However, scientists reported that before Jeremy died in 2017, he was able to mate with another lefty snail at least three times. They were able to produce a lefty baby snail. (Source: Nottingham)