This day will be a stressful one for many Americans, so naturally we turn to the internet: to paraphrase Homer, the cause of and solution to all of life’s problems. Luckily, today brings a heartwarming tale — or should I say tail? — from across the pond. A mutant snail who once thought hermself alone in the world has found love, thanks to online dating.
Jeremy, a common garden snail, was like all the other snails except in one important way: it was left-handed. In a snail, that’s a bit more serious a condition than in humans, however: left-handed, or sinistral, snails not only have shells that twist the other way — counter-clockwise — but all their organs are on the opposite side of their bodies as well.
It’s an exceedingly rare condition, one in a million perhaps, and because left-handed snails can’t mate with ordinary right-handed ones, it’s basically an involuntary vow of chastity as well. But sometimes, child, miracles do happen. On Twitter.
The University of Nottingham’s Angus Davison related the plight of young Jeremy in October, spawning the hashtag #snaillove and, for some reason or another, capturing the hearts and minds of the UK.
As #snaillove broadened its reach, it eventually found Jade Sanchez Melton, member of the Conchological Society of Great Britain and Ireland and owner of Lefty, a rare — you guessed it — sinistral garden snail. Essentially, they crowdsourced a match for a particularly difficult bachelor(ette).
Jeremy, whose joy we can only imagine, has been transported to Lefty’s habitat, and the two will be closely observed by Melton and others:
She will be looking for obvious signs of a pairing that would include the presence of so-called ‘love darts’, sharp spikes made of calcium which snails stab into each other’s bodies during the process of mating, and of course, any eggs resulting from a union.
Even if the two aren’t compatible (though it’s unbecoming to be so picky in a situation like this) there’s a third sinistral snail that may be a potential match. Miguel Àngel Salom, a snail farmer in Majorca, discovered the left-handed Tomeu during routine shell cleaning duties. I’m not sure whether this match would entail more paperwork in this post-Brexit world, but love is priceless. As are the benefits to conchologists everywhere.
“Scientifically speaking, this is something which I believe has never been done,” Melton said in a University of Nottingham news release.
“The citizen science has enabled us to begin on the first step toward understanding why these snails are so rare,” added Davison. “The contribution of the snail finders has been invaluable – we would hope that they will be authors in the scientific publication that eventually comes out of this work.”
You can listen to Dr Davison talk about the whole situation in this BBC podcast — and, of course, keep an eye on #snaillove for the latest updates. 🐌💘