Scientists Tried And Failed To Get Jeremy The Snail Laid
In 2016, The University of Nottingham was studying snail sex, for reasons we trust were important. The scientists hit a snag with one snail, though, named Jeremy. Jeremy had a penis on the left side of the face, which sounds like a crazy mutation, and it is. Most snails, you see, have their penis on the right side of the face. Jeremy, a mirror-image snail, couldn't align with any normal snail vagina and therefore could not breed.
The scientists put out a worldwide bulletin in search of other mirror-image snails, to give Jeremy a good time. Fortunately, people worldwide did not need to examine snail sex organs to tell which ones were flipped: They could just look at the shells and see which ones swirl counterclockwise instead of the usual clockwise. Two heroes answered the call. One offered her pet snail, Lefty. Another was a chef who offered one of the snails ("Tomeu") he otherwise planned on cooking.
The scientists introduced the two new snails to Jeremy's habitat. Unfortunately, Lefty and Tomeu just made a bunch of baby snails by having sex with each other instead of with poor Jeremy.
So, funny story, and definitely a Pixar premise. But some of you reading this are now wrinkling your brows. Jeremy's male, right? So they must have sought female snails for him, who might possibly fall in snail love but surely couldn't breed with each other, right? Actually, snails are hermaphrodites. Jeremy, like all in his species, had a penis and a vagina. So, any pair from the trio of snails could produce offspring—and sometimes, a snail can even fertilize itself, though that's less fun.
It's also less horrifying. Because snail sex is weird. During sex between, say, Lefty and Tomeu, Lefty's penis would go in Tomeau's vagina the same time as Tomeau's penis enters Lefty's vagina ... and that's not even the horrifying part. Also during sex, one snail will stab the other with a detachable needle called the gypsobelum, or the love dart. The dart (the equivalent of a human taking a 15-inch knife) enters no dedicated orifice but instead tears through the other snail randomly, possibly chopping internal organs.
We've talked before about traumatic insemination, whereby some insects rip new holes in each other with pseudo-penises. That's not what's going on here; snails have actual penises and vaginas, like we said. Instead, the love dart works separately from insemination to forcefully inject one snail with hormones. Each snail is inseminating the other, but only one of them becomes the mother and has to carry the offspring—it's the one transformed by the love dart injection.
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For more insects getting it on, check out:
Twisted-Wing Parasites Turn Their Hosts Into Body Horror Sex Zombies
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Top image: University of Nottingham