After over a century of being confused for another species of snail, Aegista diversifamilia finally gets its place in the limelight. In a recent paper in ZooKeys, Taiwanese researchers named it as a new species.
While many researchers would use the opportunity to give a shout-out to their favorite celebrity, this team of scientists chose to highlight a human rights issue -- the fight for same-sex marriage legalization.
This new classification separates A. diversifamilia from A. subchinensis, a similar land snail discovered in 1884. Subchinensis was thought to exist in two populations on either side of a mountain range and a river, but the snails on the eastern side were larger in shell size and flatter in shell shape. In investigating the genes of the two populations, the researchers found that they were actually distinct species.
Co-author Yen-Chang Lee of Academia Sinica in Taipei said in a statement that he named the snail in honor of the diverse forms that a human family can take.
"When we were preparing the manuscript, it was a period when Taiwan and many other countries and states were struggling for recognition of same-sex marriage rights," Lee said.
He and his team thought it fitting to use the snail -- which is a hermaphrodite, possessing sex characteristics associated with both male and female animals -- to support the cause.
"They represent the diversity of sex orientation in the animal kingdom," he said in his statement.