Snail in the coffin: left-coiling mollusc Jeremy dies after finding love

Naaman Zhou
Lefty (right) and Jeremy, the mollusc whose shell spirals in the wrong direction. Photograph: University of Nottingham/PA

Jeremy the lonely, left-coiling snail, whose unique tale of rare biology and romantic misfortune made headlines earlier this year, has died aged two in his Nottingham home.

The snail, whose left-spiralling shell prevented him from mating with the majority of the world’s right-sided snail population, was found dead on Wednesday by scientist Dr Angus Davison, who had been studying him since October last year.

But Jeremy did not die alone. The lovelorn gastropod had finally been able to mate with another left-sided snail, Tomeu, before he perished. The couple produced 56 baby snails – all right-sided – of which one-third were estimated to be fathered by Jeremy.

Sadly, Jeremy was never able to meet his children, dying shortly after they were born. His death also dashes hopes that he might produce some left-coiling offspring.

Jeremy first rose to prominence in May, after two eligible left-sided mates, discovered for Jeremy after a global search, decided to couple with each other instead.

The lonely snail was left to his own devices, while the pair, which actually included eventual partner Tomeu and another left-spiralling snail called Lefty, produced 170 offspring.

“It’s like that thing where maybe you introduce your best friend to a girl you’re interested in” and they couple up, Davison told BBC radio at the time.

It is understood that the other two-thirds of Tomeu’s 56 children were fathered by Lefty, before he returned to his home to Ipswich.

Jeremy’s biology, described as “one in a million” by Davison, meant his major internal organs were located on the opposite side of his body to other garden snails. He could only have mated with other snails with similarly counter-clockwise shells.

All of Jeremy’s offspring with Tomeu, as well as Tomeu’s offspring with Lefty, were born with right-spiralling shells.

“In the case of these mutant snails, two lefts make a right – at least in the second generation,” said researchers from the University of Nottingham.

“The fact that the babies developed right-coiling shells may be because the mother carries both the dominant and recessive versions of the genes that determine shell-coiling direction.

“Only the mother’s genes determine the direction of the twist of a snail shell. It is far more likely that left-coiling babies will be produced in the next generation or even the generation after that.”

Jeremy was initially discovered on a compost heap in south west London, before being sent to Davison in Nottingham for further study. He was estimated to be at least two years old and his shell will be displayed at his alma mater, the University of Nottingham.

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