Monday, 18 September 2006

The horror! Part II

Just a quick addendum to the story about the Bornean slugs slugging it out with their snaily prey. The same group of slugs, Rathouisiidae, also occurs in north-eastern Australia. I've uncovered them while looking for earthworms in what passes for soil in tropical rainforests.

They're amazing animals. They're only a few centrimetres long and triangular in cross section. While they're happy, they look pretty sluggy. But annoy one (by picking it up or speaking about it in a derogatory fashion) and it will go dry and hard like a piece of twig.

Rathouisiids are largely carnivorous. Like other predatory land molluscs, their multiple teeth are shaped like sabres and can shred soft tissue. When not annoyed, the slugs are very active. Flag-like flaps wave around the mouth as a slug searches for prey on the forest floor. The flaps may have a sensory function, locating food by scent or touch.

Who needs charismatic megafauna when we've got wonders like these?

4 comments:

tapperboy said...

Thanks again for the fantastic read.

The snails in part one, amazing things. The shell shapes, such wonderful design/artistry and all that just to survive.

The slugs in part two, I'm getting more comfortable with the idea of them and the way they conduct themselves. On the whole these things do tend to slowly creep up on you! ;) ;)

Snail said...

I must confess that I didn't write the stuff about the Bornean snails! (I have seen them though.) Aren't they stunning?! We don't have anything quite that elaborate in Australia. Not on land. At least, not that we know of ...

tapperboy said...

Yeah I knew you'd not written the piece, *insert D'oh here* I wonder now whether there's not a desire to research the slugs aswell to see it they are evloving instep to cope with the snails?

Snail said...

I'm sure there would be some type of predator-prey arms race happening here.

I'll check out what the paper says about the slug behaviour and report back.