An ultra-rare ‘one-in-a-million’ Nottingham snail with genitals on the opposite side to common snails has finally found a mate.
Notts TV News reported two weeks ago that scientists from the University of Nottingham were searching for a partner with the same qualities to reproduce with the rare mollusc, which they named Jeremy.
Jeremy is different to other Nottingham garden snails because his shell spirals in an anti-clockwise direction – common species of snails have shells spiralling clockwise.
And a match has now been found with a snail in Ipswich called Lefty, whose owner Jade Sanchez Melton heard about the appeal and got in contact with the university.
She said: “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 will result in more ‘lefties’ or whether their offspring will feature the more common clockwise coiling shells.”
Jade discovered Lefty just under a year ago, crawling up a tree, and immediately recognised it as something special, initially suspecting it may be an imported species.
Jeremy has been taken to Suffolk to meet Lefty and Jade will be observing them for around two weeks to see whether they mate.
She will be looking for obvious signs of a pairing, including the presence of so-called ‘love darts’, which are sharp spikes made of calcium which snails stab into each other’s bodies during the process of mating.
Other indications include any eggs resulting from the intimacy.
Following the appeal via the national media and a ‘#snaillove’ hashtag on Twitter, Jeremy’s story went viral, featuring on prime time BBC programmes – including BBC Radio Four’s Today Programme, Have I Got News For You and No Such Thing as the News.
An international match has also been identified in Majorca after a snail farmer and snail restaurant owner, Miguel Àngel Salom, contacted Dr Angus Davison at the university to say he had also spotted a rare ‘lefty’ snail when he was cleaning shells.
Dr Davison said: “Following the call that we put out to find another rare lefty snail as a partner for Jeremy, I was amazed at the response from the general public, but hardly dared hope that it would actually work.
“In the end, we found not one but two other rare lefty snails, one in Suffolk and another – Tomeu – in Spain. Both of the finders must have very keen eyes in spotting what is a very rare condition.”
Jeremy was originally found around a compost heap in Rayne’s Park, South West London, by a retired scientist from the Natural History Museum who then sent the snail to Dr Davison.
Earlier in the year, Dr Davison and colleagues at universities in Edinburgh, Germany and the US revealed they had discovered a gene that determines whether a snail’s shell twists in a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction.
This same gene is found in other animals, possibly including humans, and scientists at the University of Nottingham want to find out how organs are placed in the body and why this can sometimes go wrong when some or all of the major internal organs are reversed.