Lonely ‘lefty’ seeks mate for love – and genetic study
From Faith Pring
Scientists at The University of Nottingham hoping to study the genetics of an ultra-rare garden snail are asking the public for its help in finding the lonely mollusc a mate.
unique qualities make it a one in a million find - but also impossible for it
to mate with its more common counterparts.
glance, the brown garden snail may look like any other but closer inspection of
the snail’s shell reveals exactly why this creature is so special.
shells of this common species spiral in a right-handed, clockwise direction –
known as dextral – the Nottingham snail is a sinistral, with a left-handed
anti-clockwise spiralling shell. In essence, the ‘lefty’ snail is a mirror
image of its other shell-dwelling friends.
Davison, associate professor and reader in evolutionary genetics in the
University’s School of Life Sciences, said: “This really is an exciting find –
I have been studying snails for more than 20 years and I have never seen one of
these before. We are very keen to study the snail’s genetics to find out
whether this is a result of a developmental glitch or whether this is a genuine
inherited genetic trait.”
for Nottingham’s ‘lefty’ snail – dubbed Jeremy – being special comes with a
unique set of problems. In addition to its mirror-image shell, the snail’s
genitals are also on the opposite side to the more common dextral snails –
making it very difficult for the two types of snails to mate.
added: “Snails are hermaphrodites meaning that if they want to they can
reproduce on their own without the need for another mate. However, they don’t
really like doing this and from our perspective, the genetic data from offspring
of two lefty snails would be far richer and more valuable to us.”
Jeremy the snail was originally found around a compost heap in Rayne’s Park, South West London by a retired scientist from the Natural History Museum, who spotted its unique traits. Having heard about Dr Davison’s interest in snail genetics, he contacted the Nottingham scientist before sending it on – by snail mail.