The strange world of the banana slug

From the genus Ariolimax, there are three species of banana slug; the California banana slug, Pacific banana slug, and the slender banana slug. They are bright yellow in colour and sometimes have a brown spotted appearance, much like a banana.

 

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They have toothy tongues.

Their small slug tongues are lined with tiny teeth, which they almost use like sandpaper to file down their food. The toothy tongues are called radula and they use their radula to grind down leaves, dead plant material, and their favourite of all – mushrooms. They are vital parts of the ecosystems they live in. When they comsume their favourite foods, they release a nitrogen rich fertilizer, converting their food into soil humus. Because of this, they are known as decomposers.

They wish they were spiderman

They let themselves down from the tops of trees by hanging off thin strands of their own slime. Much like a spider lets itself down with it’s own web. They can do this from as high as 8 feet. Although their slime probably isn’t as strong or sturdy as spider’s silk, a slug can dream. Its quite a sight to see them delicately dangling from the trees, in what is possibly the world’s slowest bungee jump!

They have disturbing breeding habitats

 We won’t go into the ins and outs of it here, but feel free to Google should you wish to know more. The Internet is awash with information. To give a brief summary; they are hermaphrodites, with reproductive organs the size of their own body (their scientific name Dolichophallus even means ‘long penis’), and once mating has finished, they will ensure the other slug is faithful by eating the other’s organ.

Their slime helps them to breathe

Usually we always say ‘a slugs slime reduces friction, helping it to travel along surfaces’. And this is true, but there are other reasons too, particularly for the banana slug. They are only able to breathe when their skin is moist, as some respiration takes place on the skin, and moist skin helps with gaseous exchange. Their slime also contains pheromones to attract other slugs.

They are on of the slowest creatures on Earth  

‘Moving at a snails pace’ has never been so true. They move at a painfully slow 17cm (6.6in) per minute. They are certainly in no rush to get anywhere! One record states a large banana slug moved only 16cm (6.5in) in 2 hours!

 

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