Thursday, April 10, 2008

Banana Slug: King of the Gastropods

I thought I would take a moment to poke fun at wildlife bloggers who love to wax poetic about mammals to the detriment of the lesser-respected but no less interesting gastropods!

Gastropods are truly amazing. They live on land and under the sea. They are second only to insects in their numbers and diversity. They usually have a well-defined head and two to four sensory tentacles. They are beautiful, mysterious, and leave slime trails, at least on land. What’s not to love!

The Banana Slug is one of my favorite gastropods. It is the second largest slug in the world. It can reach up to 10 inches long and lives in the moist forest of the Santa Cruz Mountains and other Pacific coast coniferous forests. They are one of nature’s composters, gleefully nibbling on dead plants and animal droppings. If they weren’t so yellow, they might have been called the “green machine” for their zero waste habits. Ha, take that Al Gore!

Whenever I visit Santa Cruz I make a pilgrimage to Felton State Park where I took my first picture in the 9th grade. This park is a dank, moss-encrusted tangle of redwoods and coniferous trees. The perfect place to hunt the slug! I bagged this particular specimen in April 2007. He/she, because banana slugs are…ooooh la la hermaphrodites, was about six inches long. I won’t regale you the hours I spent behind a slug blind waiting for this prey to appear before I was able to swoop down and make this shot.

Finally, my hats go off to UC Santa Cruz whose students chose the Banana Slug as their mascot. Just another rodent was much too commonplace for this unique school!


Anonymous said...

When I saw the banana slug on your critters list you really had me all excited. Banana slugs in Colorado, awesome. Then the let down when I read your narrative. Great blog- thanks

sylvia murphy said...

Ah, tis true. I would be cool if they were here in Colorado. I have taken 3-4 trips to the Pacific Northwest in the last couple of years and have some great slug shots. They are seriously cool!

Anonymous said...

The first Banana Slug I ever met was on Palomar Mountain,(San Diego County) in the late 1970's. We were enjoying a day at a streem deep in a wooded area with lots of rotting trees and mossy rocks. They were huge there, abut 5 to 6 inches long. Then up in Humboldt County there were a lot of them, but they were about 1/2 the size.

Anonymous said...

Oh! This is one of the best blogs around. Thank you,
Diana - again.

Anonymous said...

My Mother, who is amatuer scientist, follows slug trails. She believes, as with other animals, they are connected to the vibrations of the earth. Therefore, when there are disturbing earth vibrations they react. Has anyone ever addressed this activity?