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Same-Sex Marriage Now Has A Snail Advocate

A new kind of mollusc may very well turn out to be one of the more progressive snails of its time.

The recently discovered snail species Aegista diversifamilia was found during a study conducted by National Taiwan Normal University and the biodiversity research center, Academia Sinica. The snail's name signifies a nod to diverse types of families, as the snail itself is hermaphroditic, possessing both male and female genitalia.

As for the name of the species, Aegista diversifamilia's sexual reproduction wasn't the only factor in choosing the moniker - current cultural happenings actually played a large role in the naming process. Dr. Lee says in a statement that, "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 ... 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."Scientists say Aegista diversifamilia "represents the diversity of sex orientation in the animal kingdom," although hermaphroditism is actually the presence of both male and female genitalia, rather than a sexual orientation.

(Photo: Chih-Wei Huang)

The snail was originally considered to be a member of the species A. subchinensis, but Dr. Lee noticed some key morphological differences between the western and eastern populations of A. subchinensis. Lee suggested that perhaps these populations were actually two "cryptic species" within A. subchinensis.

(Photo: Chih-Wei Huang)

Ph.D. candidate Chih-Wei Huang investigated Lee's theory with a group of researchers. "When we examined the phylogeny from each gene," Huang said in a statement, "it suggested that the eastern A. subchinensis was more closely related to A. vermis, a similar land snail species inhabited in Ishigaki Island, than the western A. subchinensis."

Aegista diversifamilia differs from A. subchinensis in that its shell is larger and more flat, somewhat like a disk. The two species are separated geographically by the Lanyang River, which would make this study the first finding which indicates that the Lanyang River is a "biogeographic barrier for lowland terrestrial animals."