A Leopard Slug, Limax maximus, cavorts in the musky soils found under a long dormant board. These things are huge, and it was a thrill of sorts to uncover one during a field trip to Cleveland's Dike 14 the weekend before last. I must caution, this beast is a jarring contrast to the Chimney Swifts that I just wrote about in the previous post, which were zipping and chittering high overhead when this brutish slug was uncovered. The swift represents aerial supremacy and unbounded freedom; the slug is sluggish and earthbound as an earthworm.
The "leopard" modifer is apropos; the creature is certainly spotted and dashed, but otherwise is about as far removed from the jumbo cats as is possible in the animal world. And I'm not sure the "leopard" word alone adequately atones for the "slug", as most people have a poor reaction to the latter word. I propose renaming Limax maximus the Pleasing Leopard Slug.
I am a keen observer of how people react to things in nature. Show them an angry Ruby-crowned Kinglet with scarlet crest puffed to its fullness and they'll smile and be smitten. Even a good look at a White-footed Mouse, with its big doe eyes and dumbo ears, and people will generally like it. A puffin of any species? Forget about it. The observers will roll about in rapturous fits of ecstacy.
A Leopard Slug? Well, let us say that it did not really fire the group's imagination, and most quickly wandered off in search of showier things.
What Leopard Slugs lack in visual pizazz is compensated for by their sexual habitats. When boy meets girl, they engage in a low-speed waltz of sorts, then seize each other in a slimey embrace. After attaching a viscous ropelike strand of a snotty mucous to a branch, the slugs fall into space, and remain suspended in a rather grotesque coital twirl. Once they've consummated their relationship and fallen back to earth, it's egg time. And being the good hermaphrodites that they are, either sex can pop out the little gelatinous globs.
Once hatched, the little sluglet starts to pack on the mass, and can eventually reach over four inches in length.