Any snail enthusiast knows that their favorite creatures’ shells follow certain stead-fast rules: They are cone shaped, right handed, and spiral on a single axis logarithmically. Well, let me just tell you what a shock it was to the snail community when scientists recently discovered the Opisthostoma vermiculum in Malaysia. The snail version of James Dean, the Opisthostoma vermiculum’s shell breaks all the rules and answers to no one. Do you think you’re the boss of it? You’re not.

i-1be8766b65f94276cfa61ffde2cb63c6-Opisthostoma vermiculum.jpg
What a Hell’s Angel’s shell would look like if he wore one…

Seen in the picture above the Opisthostoma vermiculum shell rotates on four different axises (I apologize if you just spit out your coffee on your computer screen). In order to do this, the snail must have twisted inside its shell as it was forming. The shell also …

…coils, uncoils and recoils all around itself, detaching and reattaching the whole time. Needless to say, this has never been seen before.

“I thought it was one of mother nature’s practical jokes,” said Reuben Clements from the World Wide Fund for Nature in Selangor, Malaysia, in this article on nytimes.com. Nope, he found a bunch more of the shells in a quarry, and confirmed this is one twisted f-ing snail…literally. Unfortunately, they have yet to find a living sample, so we’re just going to have to hold our breath to find out what it’s looks like. In the meantime, just try to forget everything you’ve ever known about the geometry of snail shells.

An artist’s rendition of what the actual snail probably looks like outside of its shell.


  1. #1 milkshake
    January 16, 2008

    I want a baby-snail for pet – I would name him Reuben and watch him touching himself/

  2. #2 synapse
    January 16, 2008

    That’s remarkable. It’s even more remarkable that all the shells they found seemed to display the four axes and the detached-attached coiling scheme, so it’s not a case of a weird mutant or random coiling. Very cool!

  3. #3 Rick MacPherson
    January 16, 2008

    i believe the Opisthostoma has some competition

  4. #4 Rick MacPherson
    January 16, 2008

    let’s try that again…

    some competition

  5. #5 Mark Powell
    January 17, 2008

    Absolutely the finest example I’ve ever seen, thanks for sharing.

  6. #6 Homie Bear
    January 17, 2008

    I wish Stephen Jay Gould were alive to see it, I think it would make his day.

  7. #7 Dave Briggs
    January 17, 2008

    Any snail enthusiast knows that their favorite creatures’ shells follow certain stead-fast rules:

    It looks like this baby is zooming, ( OK, snail pace crawling, LOL), ahead of all the others. Cool PIC! Thanks!
    Dave Briggs :~)

  8. #8 Jenbug
    January 17, 2008

    In order to do this, the snail must have twisted inside its shell as it was forming.

    So refreshing to find another organism in the universe that also wakes up with its socks on backward in the morning.

  9. #9 Luna_the_cat
    January 18, 2008

    Oh now

    You’ve made my morning.

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