A Rare, Lonely Snail Has been Caught in a Love Triangle

Fagjun | Published 2017-05-26 07:04

Jeremy, a loner who has been struggling to find love, unfortunately found himself in a love triangle in which he was ultimately the loser.

This sounds like a pitch for a bad romantic comedy, but it's actually a real life situation. However, the players aren't people—they're snails. Jeremy isn't a plucky hopeless romantic with impeccable hair, a cool job, and a wardrobe composed entirely of hoodies. He is actually a garden snail whose shell spirals on his left side. It's a genetic condition so rare that he can't mate with snails that don't have the same abnormality.

Mating with a snail whose shell spirals to the right is impossible, since Jeremy's organs are on the opposite side of his body. Snails are technically genderless, but their organs need to align for mating to be possible.

A Snail Love Triangle

Jeremy (right) turns away as Lefty and Tomeu (left) mate.
[Photo by Angus Davison]

Professor Angus Davison at the University of Nottingham thus took Jeremy under his care and looked for a suitable mate. Davison and his colleagues wanted Jeremy to produce offspring so they could study the nature of his genetic abnormality. As rare as Jeremy's condition was, Davison was able to find two snails whose shells spiral to the left.

Still a better love story than Twilight? For sure. However, there's a twist.

A snail enthusiast from Suffolk offered up a snail called Lefty, while a farmer in Mallorca offered up Tomeu. These two snails have the same shell abnormality as Jeremy, and were thus suitable mates. Scientists say that Jeremy and Tomeu “flirted” which each other, in whatever way snails flirt, though their interactions stopped at that.

Though the researchers meant for Jeremy to mate with Lefty or Tomeu, a love triangle ensued. The three snails went into hibernation at the lab during the winter. When they woke up in the spring, Lefty and Tomeu decided that they liked each other better than they liked Jeremy.

Scientists think that the two snails may have found Jeremy to have been lacking in energy. Lefty and Tomeu quickly became energetic after emerging from hibernation, which may have made them more attractive to each other.

The two snails produced 170 babies, all of whom have shells that spiral to the right.

Love for Jeremy

Jeremy with one of Lefty and Tomeu's offspring
[Photo by Angus Davison]

Lefty and Tomeu still mate, sometimes in Jeremy's presence—as if being in a love triangle wasn't hard enough. Davison says that sometimes, Jeremy just slowly turns away from the two other snails as they mate. As if to add insult to injury, Lefty and Tomeu's babies apparently like crawling all over Uncle Jeremy as well.

Davison still hasn't given up on Jeremy finally having the opportunity to mate. He admits that from a scientific perspective, it doesn't matter if Jeremy never mates. After all, Lefty and Tomeu have proven themselves capable of producing offspring. On a personal level, though, Davison cares about getting Jeremy to mate.

Lefty and Tomeu's offspring have shells that coil clockwise, but the scientists were hoping for offspring with the same genetic abnormality. Davison hopes that this snail love triangle might be able to produce offspring that will benefit his research.

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