The tale of Jeremy the “lefty” snail captured hearts across the world. The plucky snail with a one in a million genetic anomaly that meant his search for love was that much harder has sadly died. The tale involving a tragic hero, a public appeal, and love interests-turned love rivals, may have come to an end, but not without one last plot twist.
Our story starts in fair Verona. Actually, it starts in a compost heap in London in 2016, where Jeremy was discovered by a former scientist from London’s Natural History Museum, who recognized his left-coiled shell as a “one in a million” genetic mutation.
That mutation meant his shell coiled from left to right, meaning sex with another snail would be rather difficult, as his genitals were on the wrong side.
In fact, Jeremy was so rare, University of Nottingham researchers put out a public appeal to help find another lefty for him to mate with.
Happily, two potential love interests were found in June this year. However, disaster struck when instead of vying for the attentions of our hero, the two snails, Lefty and Tomeau, turned to each other instead. (Fun fact: snails are hermaphrodites, so have both sets of reproductive organs).
Lefty successfully had children, and poor jilted Jeremy, in a heroic show of being the bigger snail, was spotted by his minders acting as “uncle” to the wee gastropods.
The scientists were disappointed his search for love was unsuccessful, however, in a last-minute twist, it turns out just before he died he actually mated with former love-rival Tomeau, becoming a father to hundreds of little Jezzas.
“The scientist in me has tried to remain dispassionate about the saga of Jeremy’s lovelife because I am mostly interested in the underlying science,” Dr Angus Davison, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Nottingham, who studied Jeremey, told the Mail Online.
But the unusual tale went viral, first catching the public’s imagination, and then the media’s, with #LeftySnail trending, until finally he was immortalized in song.
“On the other hand, if it had not been for the help of the public, then we would not have got this far and Jeremy would likely never have found a mate,” Dr Davison added.
OK, technically the interest in Jeremy’s love life wasn’t strictly altruistic. There was much scientific interest in the unusual creature, from whether his rare mutation was inherited (offspring would help this research), to seeing if lefty offspring could help us understand the left and right sides of human bodies and brains, or even shed light on a rare human heart condition.
But for now, RIP Jeremey. For one so small, you sure left your mark on the world.