A one-in-a-million garden snail in London needs a date and, with more than just snail romance at stake, a U.K. evolutionary geneticist is hoping to play matchmaker.
The snail, affectionately named Jeremy, is a lefty: He has a shell that swirls leftward, counter-clockwise (see the top snail in the photo above). That makes him incredibly rare, because other snails of his kind grow their shells in the opposite direction.
"I have been studying snails for more than 20 years and I have never seen one of these before," said Angus Davison, associate professor in evolutionary genetics at The University of Nottingham, in a statement.
Jeremy's genitals are on the opposite side of those of typical snails and that makes mating difficult. If he hopes to mate, he may need a little help. To that end, Davison has put out the call for another brown garden snail, one like Jeremy, hoping that somewhere a plant pot or hedgerow holds another such special creature. In the video below, he's asking anyone who thinks they have found a garden snail whose shell grows counter-clockwise to email a picture of it to him or tweet it using the hashtag #snaillove.
RELATED: Snail as Big as a Tennis Shoe Running Amok in Florida
There's more than just a quirky animal tale at the heart of Davison's interest. The scientist led a study this year that documented the finding of a gene that determines the direction in which a snail's shell swirls.
"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," he said.
Most snails are hermaphrodites - they can be both male and female simultaneously. Some snails, like Jeremy, don't technically even need a mate to make more snails. "However, they don't really like doing this," Davison explained, "and from our perspective, the genetic data from offspring of two lefty snails would be far richer and more valuable to us."
The gene Davison and his team identified in the study impacts body asymmetry in other types of creatures, including us. Studying snails like Jeremy could help scientists learn more about why human internal organs can sometimes develop opposite their normal locations.