While at the BioBlitz some kids found a big old gastropod Limax maximus: the Leopard Slug. Its Latin name literally means the ‘biggest slug’. This had a leopard pattern, but some are all grey in color. Such a fascinating animal for many reasons.
For starters, these creatures like humans. Yeah, they are almost always found near places people live. And they are aliens, they are not native to America, some think this slug was introduced from Europe, when they were first recorded to be found in cellars in Philadelphia in 1867. From there they migrated across the country. To be fair, other populations may have around the same time been introduced to California.
And although the Leopard slug is a ‘slug’ not a ‘snail’, it is still in the phylum “Mollusca” and it has a shell, you might not notice it at first because the shell is internal. Kind of weird little trick of evolution there. If threatened the animal will pull its head under the shield of its internal shell, like pulling your head into your turtleneck sweater.
Of course being a slug they makes slime, or ‘mucus’ as scientist call it. If you have the opportunity to pick up one of these bad boy/girls (slugs are hermaphrodites, being both male and female at the same time) be ready to get sticky. The slime is not easily removed from your skin. But still its worth holding them once in your life, just to say you did. Then you can spend the next hour peeling off the slime like rubber cement glue. Lots of soap and water and nail polish remover should do the trick.
To make things even more interesting, scientists have found these slugs have a sense of home, like homing pigeons. They wander during the night, but will go back to their original crevice they consider home before morning. The diet of these slugs adds more intrigue. They eat detritus, dead leaves and organic matter, kind of boring but useful, but its little known they are also amazing hunters being able to move at 6 inches per minute, and cannibalistic eating other slugs. Think rasping mouth parts on a speeding giant slug–and then try not to ever think it again.
Just look at them in awe–because they are amazing creatures living in your own back yard.