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HomeWorld'Not the most attractive': Underdog snail wins Mollusc of the Year

‘Not the most attractive’: Underdog snail wins Mollusc of the Year

A snail is reflected in a puddle.

A snail is reflected in a puddle.

Photo by Sebastian Gollnow/Picture Alliance via Ge

  • Chilean abalone was the winner of the international Mollusc of the Year competition.
  • It beat the Wavy Bubble Snail and the giant Mehuselah oyster, which can live up to 500 years.
  • The edible mollusk is a delicacy in Peru and Chile.

In the end, it was neither beauty nor gymnastic mating rituals that won over audiences.

People appeared to have voted with their guts when voting Chilean abalone to win Thursday’s international Mollusk of the Year competition.

The edible underdog – commonly known as “Loco” – garnered 42 percent of the global vote despite facing some formidable opponents. Competitors included the psychedelic attractions of the Wavy Bubble Snail and the giant Methuselah oyster, which can live for 500 years.

As if the sporting applause and recognition weren’t enough, the hard-shelled sea slug will now have its entire genome decoded for the benefit of science and humanity by the LOEWE Center for Translational Biodiversity Genomics, which is hosting the competition.

The nominating researchers of the locomotive basked in victory.

Researcher J. Antonio Baeza of Clemson University in South Carolina to AFP:

It feels good. As you can understand, the “loco” is not the most attractive mollusk.

“Although I think it must be a lot tastier than a sea slug.”

Simply served with a dab of mayonnaise or added to soup, this snail is a traditional delicacy in its native countries of Peru and Chile.

That popularity may have helped Chilean abalone win, but the loco’s potential extends far beyond the plate.

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Decoding the genomes of the top predator and keyhole limpet will reveal how marine invertebrates deal with overfishing and pollution at the molecular level, researchers say.

It could also potentially boost the fight against certain types of human cancer, thanks to the oxygen-carrying pigments in its blood.

Mysterious mollusks

The annual competition is held to raise awareness of the diverse group of animals, ranging from the colossal deep-sea squid to the garden snail.

Mollusks have been around for more than 500 million years and are the second largest group of animals after insects.

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But they’re mysterious, organizers say, because of a lack of genetic research.

The aquatic South American snail slowly slithered to victory. A long list of 85,000 applicants was reduced to five finalists, who prevailed in a public vote that ended Sunday.

Coming in second was the billowing neon skirts of the Wavy Bubble Snail, followed by the long-lived Methuselah oyster and the bighorn nudibranch.

Last was the leopard snail — the only terrestrial mollusk species on the list, distinguished by its feline body markings and an intricate mating ritual in which pairs climb a tree together and then rappel down.

The loco sea slug joins the mollusc hall of fame alongside the large argonaut octopus and the spectacular Cuban colubid slug.

And given the slow pace of the competition, organizers say they’re already accepting nominations for 20Reported Medias.



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