Sunday, 4 March 2007

Slug world ™

The leopard slugs (Limax maximus) haven't been around for a while. I thought the drought might have finally achieved what the neighbours' snail pellets and beer traps have failed to do. But last night—on a very late wander around the garden—I found not only leopard slugs in abundance but also Limacus flavus. They were stuffing themselves with the caterpillar- contaminated cereal products that I'd emptied onto the compost heap. Who says there's no such thing as a free lunch?

Cetacean biologists can identify individual whales by the shape of their tail flukes*. I wonder whether similar criteria can be applied to leopard slugs? The markings on the mantles of these three are different. I'll go out again tonight and see whether I encounter the same individuals again. This time I'll photograph the mantles from directly above, so I can make useful comparisons between them. (Useful, of course, being a relative term.)

And then I'll have to give them names.

* Which once led me into a very strange conversation with a whaleologist. I thought he was talking about intestinal worms ...


MC said...

Here's an incredible clip from David Attenborough, of leopard slugs mating.

Snail said...

Thanks! I should have put up a link to an earlier leopard slug post that includes links to the Attenborough footage as well as some great stills of the slugs caught in the act.

sarala said...

My father has a second home on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state. They have what we called "banana slugs." I think they are pretty close to your leopards.
Here is my photo of one specimen. Next time I'm there in the summer I plan on looking for some more.

sarala said...

Oops, I forgot the link.


>I wonder whether similar criteria can be applied to leopard slugs?

I thought of that first! But then I gave up on the idea, because I think the patterns would depend on how stretched the slug was. So you would have to photograph each at the same degree of extension/contraction.

But I do want to know if your experiment works.

Snail said...

I haven't seen bamama slugs in the flesh (as it were), so I envy you! Have fun on your next summer slug hunt.

Part of the link got cut off, so here it is in full.

Snail said...

Aydin, the slugs haven't been out since I photographed them. Too warm and dry, I suspect. Or they're just shy.

I wonder whether it might be possible to use a few key marks to ID individuals? Maybe one at the front of the mantle, one at the back and a few around the pneumostome. Will keep you posted.