ENVIRONMENT
10/13/2014 01:43 pm ET

Scientists Name New Hermaphroditic Snail In Honor Of Same Sex Marriage

Marriage equality proponents may sometimes feel the movement is progressing at a snail's pace. For better or worse, Aegista diversifamilia may confirm their suspicions.

The newly-identified hermaphroditic land snail, a native to Taiwan, was named in honor of same-sex marriage rights, say researchers who published their findings on Monday in the journal ZooKeys.

"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," explained Dr. Yen-Chang Lee, a professor at Taipei's Academia Sinica research academy and one of the authors of the report.

"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."

Taiwan's land snail Aegista subchinensis was first identified in 1884, but researchers didn't realize it might actually be two separate species until 2003, when Dr. Lee documented slight physical differences in the Eastern and Western populations of the snail.

Using Dr. Lee's findings as a base, Chih-Wei Huang, a Ph.D. candidate at National Taiwan Normal University, studied the snails' molecular markers, ultimately concluding they had two separate species on their hands -- and thus Aegista diversifamilia earned its own biological classification.

According to the BBC, the newly recognized species is unique because of its larger, flatter shell, and is related to a third species of land snail found on Japan's Ishigaki Island.

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