Meet the Slugs

Meet the Slugs

The Banana Slug is our native Gastropod of the Pacific Northwest. These creatures grace the forest trail with their stretched out bodies. Perhaps they are headed to a juicy meal of dead plants, fungi, animal droppings, slug carrion or other such treats. The Pacific Banana Slug can grow to 25 centimetres (9.8 in) long. A slug can achieve a weight of up to 115 grams (4.1 ounces). These large presences of the forest trail can live from 1-7 years. I wonder who I have seen from year to year as I return to the trail. Is there a way to know if you have seen the same slug? The Banana Slug can be yellow, olive green, brown, tan or white. There are many on the trail that have black spots as well. I think it’s difficult to tell if you are running into the same slug. Their colour can change depending on many factors: moisture levels, food consumption, light exposure, general health, and age. Because of this, I will not bother to name them as I pass by.

Slugs are forest buddies. They eat the decaying matter and turn it into nitrogen-rich compost. I step gingerly around them so that I don’t disturb their daily affairs. Their slime is also a marvel of nature. It can hold 100 times its volume in water and interests material engineers because of its unique properties. If you have handled a slug and find your hand covered in slime, wait for the slime to dry and roll it off. Washing the slime with water will not work so well. The slug slime acts as a protective layer against dryness.

The Banana Slug has a single lung that is accessed through a hole, like a gill, on the right side of the head area; “a reminder that slugs have an aquatic history and are brave pioneers of the terrestrial world” (Griffith). Walking through the forest by these creatures is a nice way to take in the trees with a sense of the ocean coming at you at the same time. Gastropods include the nudibranchs, or sea slugs, and have similarities to terrestrial slugs. Nudibranchs are more luxurious in appearance, with exotic looking frills and colours. When I hike the trail, I will think about the superpowers of Banana slug slime and their ocean relatives who dazzle us with their fashions.

Photo: "Banana Slug" by A.Poulos (Iya) is licensed under CC BY 2.0

 


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