A new species of land snail, discovered in Taiwan and named for marriage equality. ZooKeys/Chih-Wei Huang
TAIPEI, Taiwan, Oct. 14 (UPI) -- Researchers have identified a new species of hermaphrodite land snail in Taiwan, and they've named the mollusk in honor of marriage equality -- Aegista diversifamilia.
Though the land snail is abundant in eastern Taiwan, biologists had previously mistaken A. diversifamilia for one its relatives Aegista subchinensis -- first described in 1884. More recently, scientists noticed that there was a morphological different between snails on the west side of Taiwan's Central Mountain Range and those on the east.
It turned out, A. diversifamilia, which has a larger, flatter shell, was more closely related to a snail on a nearby Japanese island than to its neighbor across the mountain range.
"When we examined the phylogeny from each gene," Chih-Wei Huang said in a press release, "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."
Because of the political climate and the fact that the new species is a hermaphrodite, an animal with both male and female reproductive organs, the researchers decided it was appropriate to honor the fight for marriage equality with the snail's new name.
"When we were preparing the manuscript," lead study author Dr. Yen-Chang Lee said, "it was a period when Taiwan and many other countries and states were struggling for the recognition of same-sex marriage rights."
"They represent the diversity of sex orientation in the animal kingdom," Lee said of the newly discovered snails. "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."
The study was published in the online journal ZooKeys.