Jeremy the left-coiling lovelorn garden snail captured the nation’s heart when scientists put out an appeal to help him find love – but his children weren’t what they were expecting.
No stone was left unturned as Britons hunted for another ‘super rare’ left-spiralling snail to be his mate back in 2016, as the ‘shellebrity’s’ mirror-imaged body meant he found it difficult to copulate with normal right-coiled snails.
As many as 40 potential suitors – dubbed sinistral because of their unusual spirals – were found, and one got together with Jeremy shortly before his death.
Three years, 15,000 offspring and three generations later, scientists have revealed that the snail’s left-spiralling shells are a developmental accident, rather than an inherited trait.
The research sheds light on how asymmetry develops in humans and the origin of rare reversed individuals in other animals.
Scientists bred 40 left-coiling snails and hatched more than 15,000 offspring over three generations. A campaign to collect the snails was launched with Jeremy (pictured top sitting above an ordinary right sided snail)
Scientists found that the babies from two left-coiling snails were always right-coiling, leading them to the conclusion that it was most likely a development defect
But some French snails bucked the trend. When 32 second-generation ones were interbred, 17 out of 6,302 snail babies had left-coiling shells, an incidence of 1.7 per cent
The study began after ‘super rare’ Jeremy was found on top of a compost heap in south London and delivered to the Natural History Museum.
Scientists were fascinated by this reversed snail. To find out whether his condition was inherited they launched a campaign #snaillove, which was featured across the internet and on MailOnline, in attempt to find others like him for a breeding programme.
Jeremy’s first two suitors were more interested in each other, and rejected him.
But in 2017, just before his death, Jeremy mated with another lefty snail that produced 56 babies. About a third of these, according to scientists, are likely to have been ‘fathered’ by him.
After many thousands of snails were born the study, published in Biology Letters, found that when two left-spiralling snails get together all of their offspring have a right-spiralling shell.
However, there was one exception.
The French snails suggested there may be a recessive gene for left-coiling. However, it was so rare scientists concluded the rare coils are more likely to be a developmental defect. Pictured above is Jeremy on the left with a potential mate
Jeremy, underneath, and a potential suitor. During the experiment he was rejected by the first two potential mates, before copulating with a third
Pictured is the University of Nottingham’s Dr Angus Davison (left) who set up the study. He is pictured with Jade Melton, from Ipswich, who gave him a left-sided snail for the research
When 32 second-generation offspring from French snails were interbred, six of them produced 17 left-spiralling snailings out of 6,302, giving an incidence of left-spiralling snails of 1.7 per cent.
This highlighted a ‘partially penetrant recessive sinistral gene’ in each of the original parents, Dr Angus Davison from the University of Nottingham told CNN.
‘Rather than kind of an oddball switch, it’s like a dial that just dials up a little bit so you just get a few sinistrals,’ Davison said.
But, as the sinistrals and French sinistral offspring were so rare, the scientists concluded it was more likely to be due to developmental problems rather than genetic inheritance.
‘Our findings showed that it is usually a developmental accident, rather than an inherited condition, that makes a lefty garden snail,’ he said.
‘We have learned that two lefties usually make a right, at least if you’re a garden snail.
It is hoped the research will shed more light on how reversed bodies occur in other animals
‘In other snails, being a lefty is an inherited condition, but we still don’t really know how they do it. If we are able to find out, then this may help us understand how the right and left side of other animal bodies are defined, including ourselves.
‘You could say that we tried to recreate what made Jeremy different, but this was not possible. Jeremy was special.’
It is hoped the research will provide answers on how reversed bodies occur in other species.