Spurned by Potential Mates, Jeremy the Lefty Snail Is Still Single


Romantics like to say there’s someone out there for everyone—and for a stretch of time, this adage seemed to hold true for Jeremy the lefty garden snail. Discovered in England last year, the mollusk made global headlines after scientists noted that its rare anatomy made sex nearly impossible for the snail. A public search yielded mates with similar parts, and researchers hoped that this meant that Jeremy was destined for a happy ending. But as The Washington Post reports, Jeremy’s prospective mate ended up preferring another slimy suitor.

Most garden snails have shells that curl right, and genitals on the right side of their heads. But thanks to a genetic mutation, Jeremy’s shell goes left, as do his reproductive parts. The problem? Snails mate by lining up their bodies and swapping fluids, meaning Jeremy needed a partner with the same rare body type to properly copulate. (A note for clarity: Snails are hermaphroditic, but scientists at first chose to refer to Jeremy using male pronouns. While they've recently reconsidered that decision, we're using male pronouns for consistency's sake.)

Scientists at England’s University of Nottingham—who reported in February 2016 that they had found the gene linked to snail-shell spiral shape—wanted to study Jeremy’s genes to see if they provided clues about body asymmetry in other animals. For this effort, they needed baby Jeremys, and so they sought to locate him a like-bodied paramour.

A global search helped scientists find two other lefty mollusks, named Lefty and Tomeu, with parts that mirrored Jeremy’s. Scientists hoped that one of the two would take a liking to their lonely charge. But in a cruel twist of fate, Lefty and Tomeu preferred each other to Jeremy, and ended up getting it on.

The new couple’s first batch of eggs hatched in April, fathered by Lefty and mothered by Tomeu, and two more are on the way— one of them fathered by Tomeu and mothered by Lefty. (Remember, they're hermaphroditic.) This was bad news for Jeremy but good news for the scientists, who were playing snail matchmaker so they could study lefty snail babies. Sure enough, Lefty and Tomeu’s offspring revealed new genetic insights: Each of the hatched snails has developed a right-twisting shell, proving that "two lefts clearly make a right," one of the researchers, Angus Davison, told the Post.

That said, Davison and his colleagues are still hoping that the aging Jeremy will also get a second shot at romance: Since Lefty has been returned to his collector owner, they’re thinking that Tomeu might use him as a rebound love interest.

Want to keep up with the drama? Follow the snail on Twitter.

[h/t The Washington Post]

The Time German and Russian WWI Soldiers Banded Together to Fight Wolves


During the winter of 1917, Russian and German soldiers fighting in the dreary trenches of the Great War’s Eastern Front had a lot to fear: enemy bullets, trench foot, frostbite, countless diseases, shrapnel, bayonets, tanks, sniper fire. Oh, and wolves.

In February of that year, a dispatch from Berlin noted that large packs of wolves were creeping from the forests of Lithuania and Volhynia into the interior of the German Empire, not far from the front lines. Like so many living creatures, the animals had been driven from their homes by the war and were now simply looking for something to eat. “As the beasts are very hungry, they penetrate into the villages and kill calves, sheep, goats, and other livestock,” the report, which appeared in the El Paso Herald, says. “In two cases children have been attacked by them.”

According to another dispatch out of St. Petersburg, the wolves were such a nuisance on the battlefield that they were one of the few things that could bring soldiers from both sides together. “Parties of Russian and German scouts met recently and were hotly engaged in a skirmish when a large pack of wolves dashed on the scene and attacked the wounded,” the report says, according to the Oklahoma City Times. “Hostilities were at once suspended and Germans and Russians instinctively attacked the pack, killing about 50 wolves.” It was an unspoken agreement among snipers that, if the Russians and Germans decided to engage in a collective wolf-hunt, all firing would cease.

Take this July 1917 New York Times report describing how soldiers in the Kovno-Wilna Minsk district (near modern Vilnius, Lithuania) decided to cease hostilities to fight this furry common enemy:

"Poison, rifle fire, hand grenades, and even machine guns were successively tried in attempts to eradicate the nuisance. But all to no avail. The wolves—nowhere to be found quite so large and powerful as in Russia—were desperate in their hunger and regardless of danger. Fresh packs would appear in place of those that were killed by the Russian and German troops.

"As a last resort, the two adversaries, with the consent of their commanders, entered into negotiations for an armistice and joined forces to overcome the wolf plague. For a short time there was peace. And in no haphazard fashion was the task of vanquishing the mutual foe undertaken. The wolves were gradually rounded up, and eventually several hundred of them were killed. The others fled in all directions, making their escape from carnage the like of which they had never encountered."

Afterward, the soldiers presumably returned to their posts and resumed pointing their rifles at a more violent and dangerous enemy—each other.

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