Hermaphrodite Snail Species Named in Support of Marriage Equality

Posted on October 13, 2014

Aegista diversifamilia Taiwan land snail species

Scientists have discovered a new hermaphrodite snail species in Taiwan. The new species, Aegista diversifamilia, had long been confused with a related snail species, A. subchinensis.

A. subchinensis and A. diversifamilia are separated by the Central Mountain Range and Lanyang River in Taiwan. A. diversifamilia has a bigger and flatter shell than its relative. It also differs in the number of lobes of mucus glands in its auxiliary copulatory organ.

The discovery was made by researchers from National Taiwan Normal University and the Academia Sinica Biodiversity Research Center. The scientists say the new species is actually more closely related to A. vermis, a land snail species that inhabits Ishigaki Island.

The name "diversifamilia" manes diverse forms of human families. Dr. Yen-Chang Lee, a co-author of the study, says the research paper was being written at a time when Taiwan and other countries are struggling with the recognition of same-sex marriage rights.

Dr. Lee says in a statement, "When we were preparing the manuscript, it was a period when Taiwan and many other countries and states were struggling for the recognition of same-sex marriage rights. It reminded us that Pulmonata land snails are hermaphrodite animals, which means they have both male and female reproductive organs in single individual. They represent the diversity of sex orientation in the animal kingdom. We decided that maybe this is a good occasion to name the snail to remember the struggle for the recognition of same-sex marriage rights."

A research paper on the new species can be found here in Zookeys.

Photo: Chih-Wei Huang