10 Slippery Facts About Slugs

Slugs get poor push. All right, they’re chilly and slimy and often eat your kale, but there is so a great deal additional to them. They exude a liquid crystal, they have sex when dangling from a thread, and one particular time they defeat a charismatic mammal in a extraordinary popular vote.

Persons have a tendency to get in touch with a little something a slug if it appears to be like like a snail but has no shell. Nevertheless, numerous distantly linked critters amid the gastropods—the team that has snails and slugs—have independently advanced a sluggy, shell-absolutely free shape. So there’s no solitary, evolutionarily distinct slug lineage. To make factors more difficult, a whole lot of slugs secretly do have shells—they’re just hidden within just the slugs’ bodies.

And then there are the in-betweeners. So-known as semi-slugs have little shells on the outside of their bodies that are way much too modest for them to retract into. (Truthfully, they search pretty absurd.)

Stuart Brown via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.

If you want to aspiration up an alien species for the up coming massive sci-fi blockbuster, begin with slug anatomy. Very first, check out out the tentacles. Slugs have four, and they’re retractable. Two are for observing and smelling, and they can be operated independently: a slug can gaze at you (or scent you) and a friend concurrently. The other two are for touching and tasting.

Slugs also have thousands and hundreds of tooth. These small chompers are element of a rasping structure referred to as a radula that is unique to mollusks. And in case that will not feel unusual adequate, slugs fundamentally breathe as a result of a blowhole that opens up on 1 side of their bodies. This round pore is identified as a pneumostome.

But which is just the anatomy of land-residing slugs. Sea slugs have their own unbelievable characteristics. For case in point, some breathe working with sensitive feather-like gills that surround their butt holes, and they smell with neon-colored, bizarrely shaped protrusions called rhinophores.

Melibe leonina from Santa Cruz. Image credit score: Robin Agarwal via Wikimedia // CC BY-SA 4.

It is an ingenious system for escaping a hungry predator: Break off a smaller delicious component of your overall body, and leave it at the rear of as you make your escape. Some slugs do this. The aptly named taildropper slugs, this sort of as the reticulated taildropper, can speedily amputate their own tails. And sure sea slugs have entire body parts that snap off safely and securely and simply, leaving a would-be predator with a smaller, much less attractive meal.

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Leopard slugs and their family will only mate when they’re dangling upside down from a thread of mucus. This placement permits them to extend their gigantic, overall body-size penises and wrap them all-around just about every other. And indeed, which is penises plural: slugs have both male and female system areas.

And that’s just one example of shocking slug sexual intercourse. The banana slug, a fixture of the Pacific Northwest, occasionally chews off its partner’s penis soon after mating. Then there’s the sea slug that removes its own penis submit-intercourse and fast grows a new a person. Yet another sea slug sets the mood by stabbing its companion in the head.

Steve Elgersma via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.

Slugs are gooey and sticky, and they depart a path of slime anywhere they go. But that goo is quite outstanding. It is a liquid crystal, a material that is somewhere in between a liquid and a good. It flows a bit like a liquid, but at the molecular stage, it is more organized. It can be both equally adhesive and lubricating, and it in fact slurps up drinking water.

Why all the goo? Slug slime is multi-function. It can help these critters go and climb challenging surfaces. It also guards them from fungi and microorganisms. As well as, slugs can find out about every other—and uncover likely mates—by inspecting slime trails. And, of class, mucus is a critical component of a leopard slug’s daredevil upside-down intercourse lifetime.

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Some land-living slugs can get pretty substantial. Europe’s ashy-gray slug is 10 inches extended. But that’s nothing at all when compared to the sheer dimensions of some sea slugs. Identified in California, the black sea hare can arrive at almost 40 inches and weigh 30 lbs ..

Amgueddfa Cymru, Nationwide Museum Wales through Wikimedia // CC BY-SA 3.0 

Sure, a lot of try to eat a salad-like food plan of crops, mushrooms, and fruits, or chew up lifeless and rotting plants and in some cases even rotting animals. But others have a style for living flesh. The ghost slug slurps up worms. The stunningly coloured Spanish shawl (a style of sea slug) chows down on a individual maritime creature named a hydroid, having every thing except the hydroid’s stinging cells, which the slug then works by using for its possess defense. The sea slug Pleurobranchaea californica eats other sea slugs, and it’s demonstrated a impressive potential to don’t forget which species—like that stinging Spanish shawl—are no great to eat.


As men and women have spread throughout the world, we’ve unintentionally launched slug species into new locales. These slimy invaders absence pure predators in their new lands, so they flourish and even force out native slugs. The slugs that try to eat the veggies in your back garden may possibly incredibly properly be invaders, these types of as the Spanish slug or leopard slug—and that very last species carries a parasite that can bring about meningitis.

Slugs are not just spreading to new spots on land, either. Ocean-heading ships have also accidentally transported exotic sea slugs to new locations.

And invasive slugs also result in issues for other creatures. Some plants rely on ants to distribute their seeds, and they reward the ants with a tasty address called an elaiosome that is connected to every seed. But invasive slugs can consume these treats before the ants discover them.

Blue-grey Taildropper (Prophysaon coeruleum)

Blue-grey Taildropper (Prophysaon coeruleum) /

Only a number of slug species are pests. Most are significant associates of land and drinking water ecosystems all all-around the entire world. And, like so lots of creatures, they’re struggling declines. One is the very small and ridiculously vibrant blue-gray taildropper of the Pacific Northwest. One more, the evocatively named snake skin hunter slug, is found in only a several places in South Africa. Although these critters may possibly not have the charisma of, say, a cheetah or a blue whale, they are no considerably less critical to the overall health of ecosystems.

If you’re looking for a model of slug appreciation, get a search at UCSC. For a extended time, college students deemed the banana slug, a gentle denizen of the area’s redwood forests, to be their unofficial mascot. Little did they know that their slug was in for a battle.

In 1980, UCSC entered the National Collegiate Athletic Affiliation (NCAA). The university wanted an formal mascot—and some officers desired a fiercer, sportier, and a lot more usually charismatic species. A team of athletes proposed the sea lion, and it turned the mascot. But other learners refused to embrace the new option. They ongoing to shout “Slime ’em!” and “Go slugs!” at basketball video games. A fierce discussion erupted, resulting in national media protection. At last, the subject was put to rest with a 1986 university-large vote. Slug supporters slid into initial area with an too much to handle 5-to-one particular victory.

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