A Tragic Love Triangle

A Tragic Love Triangle

In 2017, scientists began a global search to find a mate for Jeremy, a rare left-coiled snail. Two possible mates were found, but they mated with each other instead of Jeremy.

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It had been a timeless love story. A garden snail with a rare genetic condition can't mate with ordinary snails; scientists launch an international search for a mate; the snail becomes a media sensation, and miraculously not one but two possible mates are found.

That's where we left the tale of Jeremy, the rare left-coiling snail, in 2017.
But since then, what had been a snail fairy tale has turned into something of a tragedy for Jeremy – its two possible mates proceeded to mate with each other instead. They've been feverishly reproducing, with three batches of eggs between them.

And Jeremy remains alone. He's left "shell-shocked," as the University of Nottingham charmingly put it. Finding a mate is particularly hard because Jeremy and the other two all have shells that curl counterclockwise, the opposite direction of typical snails. Their sex organs are also on the left side of their heads, meaning they can't procreate with most other snails because they can't align their organs.

Scientists aren't sure exactly how rare this condition is. It could be as uncommon as one in a million, though evolutionary geneticist Angus Davison of the University of Nottingham told us back in 2017 that it's more likely to be about one out of every 100,000 snails.

That rarity made it particularly surprising to find two potential suitors for Jeremy after the scientists launched the international search. First, a snail enthusiast near Ipswich, U.K. came forward with her pet snail Lefty. Then, a snail farmer and restaurateur in Majorca, Spain, found another left-coiling snail that had been on its way to becoming a meal. It was later named Tomeu.

Davison said that the three initially did not mate. They were put into a fridge for a few months to simulate ordinary snail hibernation during the winter. Come spring, Lefty and Tomeu were immediately "keen, moving around," said Davison, but Jeremy "didn't seem to have much energy. For the moment only two of them have reproduced.

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