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

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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]

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Animals
25 Shelter Dogs Who Made It Big
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If you’ve been thinking of adding a four-legged friend to your brood and are deciding whether a shelter dog is right for you, consider this: Some of history’s most amazing pooches—from four-legged movie stars to heroic rescue dogs—were found in animal shelters. In honor of Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog Month, here are 25 shelter dogs who made it big.

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This High-Tech Material Can Change Shape Like an Octopus
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Octopuses can do some pretty amazing things with their skin, like “see” light, resist the pull of their own sticky suction cups, and blend in seamlessly with their surroundings. That last part now has the U.S. Army interested, as Co.Design reports. The military branch’s research office has funded the development a new type of morphing material that works like an octopus’s dynamic skin.

The skin of an octopus is covered in small, muscular bumps called papillae that allow them to change textures in a fraction of a second. Using this mechanism, octopuses can mimic coral, rocks, and even other animals. The new government-funded research—conducted by scientists at Cornell University—produced a device that works using a similar principle.

“Technologies that use stretchable materials are increasingly important, yet we are unable to control how they stretch with much more sophistication than inflating balloons,” the scientists write in their study, recently published in the journal Science. “Nature, however, demonstrates remarkable control of stretchable surfaces.”

The membrane of the stretchy, silicone material lays flat most of the time, but when it’s inflated with air, it can morph to form almost any 3D shape. So far, the technology has been used to imitate rocks and plants.

You can see the synthetic skin transform from a two-dimensional pad to 3D models of objects in the video below:

It’s easy to see how this feature could be used in military gear. A soldier’s suit made from material like this could theoretically provide custom camouflage for any environment in an instant. Like a lot of military technology, it could also be useful in civilian life down the road. Co.Design writer Jesus Diaz brings up examples like buttons that appear on a car's dashboard only when you need them, or a mixing bowl that rises from the surface of the kitchen counter while you're cooking.

Even if we can mimic the camouflage capabilities of cephalopods, though, other impressive superpowers, like controlling thousands of powerful suction cups or squeezing through spaces the size of a cherry tomato, are still the sole domain of the octopus. For now.

[h/t Co.Design]

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