Slug Truth is Stranger than Fiction

A shiny banana slug crawls over fallen redwood foliage.
A shiny banana slug crawls over fallen redwood foliage.

Did you know that the coast redwood forest is home to the largest slug in North America and the second largest slug worldwide*? Yep, our very own banana slug (Ariolimax columbianus) grows up to 8 inches in length and can live for 7 years. Banana slugs depend upon the moist habitat provided by Pacific Northwest forests and crawl along their own slime trails in coniferous forests up through British Columbia. Banana slugs secrete slime to aid in their locomotion, as defense from predators (beetles and racoons), for reproductive purposes, and to keep from drying out.

They eat a little bit of everything in the redwood forest including live plants, fallen leaves, and dead animals, but never munch on the redwoods themselves. The striking yellow color of the banana slug varies with the diet of the slug, light conditions, and general health, but it isn’t uncommon to see slugs with dark brown spots that help the slug hide on the forest floor. Banana slugs breathe through a special lung called a pulmonata that is visible as a “hole” at the back of the head.

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the banana slug is their mating behavior. These slugs are hermaphrodites and can actually fight quite aggressively before mating (the slug equivalent of biting). It isn’t uncommon for one of the slugs to chew the penis of its mate and render it unable to fertilize other slug eggs.

Once again, truth is stranger than fiction.

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