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Two lefties make a right – if you're a one-in-a-million garden snail - University of Nottingham

Credit Angus Davison / University of Nottingham
Credit Angus Davison / University of Nottingham

A global campaign to help find a mate for a left-coiling snail called ‘Jeremy’ has enabled scientists to understand how mirror-image garden snails are formed.

The findings, published today in the journal Biology Letters, show that the rare left-spiralling shell of some garden snails is usually a development accident, rather than an inherited condition.

In October 2016, evolutionary geneticist Dr Angus Davison in the University of Nottingham’s School of Life Sciences appealed to the public for their help in match-making for Jeremy, a garden snail with a rare left-coiling shell.

Dr Davison hoped to use the offspring from Jeremy to study the genetics of this condition, because his previous work on snails had given insight into understanding body asymmetry in other animals, including humans. But another left-coiling snail had to be found first. As well as a mirror-imaged shell, Jeremy had genitals on the opposite side making it very difficult for the snail to mate with normal snails.

The science to unravel this mystery was made possible by the involvement of the general public in finding a mate for Jeremy, initially via an appeal put out on BBC Radio Four’s Today programme, and then the wider media using #snaillove.

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