Protecting nature through research, education, and outreach

Gastropod Mollusk

As I was perusing the Lloyd Center property on a mild autumn morning looking for the next installment of Creature Feature, I noticed a lot of slugs under fallen logs. I thought to myself that I hadn’t really studied or examined these critters before. With that being said, I give you November’s Creature Feature: the Garden Slug.

It took a little while to figure out the species of slug we have here on Potomska Road, as they range in size and coloration and the majority of them have been introduced from Europe.

From the field guides to the Internet, I have learned a lot about the gastropod mollusk. First off, gastropods are related to snails, but as you know slugs are bare, or are they?! Slugs fall into the mollusk category because of their mantle, the part on the body that secretes the shell and by the structure of their nervous system. Again, I thought the slug had no shell; well it turns out that the slug could either have a condensed, internal shell or no shell at all.

I gathered my “information” with my little Dixie cup – 4 slugs. They are persistent little creatures! They continuously slid and slithered out of the cup onto my desk. I noticed that they leave a trail of “slime” or mucous behind. Slugs produce two types of mucous: thin and watery and thick and sticky. The mucous helps the survival of the animal by allowing it to descend vertically as well as to provide a protective coat from predators. The trail of slime that it leaves behind could attract a mate of the same species or bring a predator licking its chops.

The more I kept putting the slugs back into the Dixie cup, the more I could see a “cuteness” factor. I blame the four tentacles on the front of the body – the top two are for sight, how they see different shades of light/dark, and the bottom two are for sensing. They all retract when the slug feels threatened, but pop back up when the slug is back to being curious.

If you are feeling a little curious yourself, and the weather isn’t too frightful, slither on over to the Lloyd Center to explore our beautiful 5 miles of trails. Maybe you’ll find some slugs on your walk!