Jeremy and baby. Credit: Picture: Dr Angus Davison/The University of Nottingham
The rare ‘lefty’ snails brought together following a public appeal by Dr Angus Davison of the University of Nottingham have produced their first offspring. More than 170 baby snails have hatched, after the story of Jeremy and his search for a mate with a similarly left-coiling shell made headlines last October.
‘Lefty’ snails can only mate with one another, and Dr Davison wanted to breed from Jeremy to find out whether his genetics could offer insight into body asymmetry in other animals. Snails are hermaphrodites, which doubles their chances of a date, and two potential mates were found – Lefty from Ipswich and Tomeu from Majorca. But tragically, when Jeremy was introduced to his suitors, they ignored him and mated with one another.
Lefty and Tomeu have produced three batches of eggs – but every single one of the babies from the first hatch has a right-coiling shell. However, this is not necessarily a setback. Dr Davison says, “[It] may be because the mother carries both the dominant and recessive versions of the genes that determine shell-coiling direction. Body asymmetry in snails is inherited in a similar way to bird shell colour – only the mother’s genes determine the direction of the twist of the shell, or the colour of a bird egg. It is far more likely that we will get to see left-coiling babies produced in the next generation or even the generation after that.”
Meanwhile, Jeremy may still be in with a chance. Lefty has now returned home to Ipswich, so Dr Davison is hopeful that Tomeu may now decide to settle down with Jeremy.