Banana Slug

by curiousmiscellany

My little sister and I spotted several of these delightful creatures on our adventures through the Redwood Forests in Northern California this August. There are three species of shell-less mollusk that go by the moniker of banana slug: Ariolimax californicus (California), Ariolimax columbianus (Pacific) and Ariolimax dolichophallus (Slender). Their famous yellow coloring, which is sometimes accompanied by brown spots, serves as camouflage amongst the fallen dead leaves of North America’s Pacific coastal coniferous rainforests where they are endemic. The Pacific banana slug is the second largest slug in the world (the largest being the Limax cinereoniger of Europe), gaining lengths of up to 9.8 inches. If motivated, they can travel at a speed of about 6.5 inches per minute. Banana slugs are decomposers, consuming leaves, animal feces, mushrooms, etc. which they excrete as a nitrogen-rich fertilizer. As dehydration is a major issue for them, banana slugs produce a heavy mucus that coats their bodies; some have been known to aestivate during a hot, dry spell. Their upper two tentacles are used to detect light and movement while their bottom pair senses chemicals, such as the pheromones in the slime of their future hermaphroditic mates. Related coincidence: in Pulp Fiction (a film I saw for the first time this summer), John Travolta wears a UC Santa Cruz t-shirt, featuring their mascot: yep, the adorable Banana Slug.