Monday, October 18, 2010

Leopard Slug

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.

Someone - Dana Bollin, I believe - was bold enough to pick up the slug so I could get an in-the-hand photo to illustrate its enormous size. Leopard Slugs are not native here - they were introduced from Europe. It was first discovered in North America in 1867, and since has managed to get itself all over the place, by some means. Maybe they migrate on the backs of robins or something - I can't imagine how anything this, well, sluggish gets anywhere fast.

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.


Mike said...

Here are a couple of photos to go with your post.

rebecca said...

Ah ha! Once or twice when I was working in Yellow Springs a coworker came back from a hike talking about having seen a big spotted slug. I never saw one, but this must be what they were talking about!

Jim McCormac said...

Probably was this species, Rebecca. Not many other slugs would be comment-worthy.

Fabulous work, Mike! Thanks for sharing that photo! ALL: go check out Mike's link, and you'll see an amorous slug couple hanging in midair, making more slugs.

dAwN said...

Most bugs and critters don't bother me..I just cant bring myself to hold a slug...ughhh..

As always Jim, i love your posts...your love of all creatures big or small...creepy and crawly Thanks!

Cape May Wren said...

Same thing as "banana" slug?

Had two of these glorious creatures on my front deck this summer.

To add to Mike's incredible photo, I give you... Slug Poo!

Cape May Wren said...

Okay, got it... Slug Poo!

anita*elini said...

While these slugs sure are intriguing, I was not thrilled to see one that found its way into my basement apartment bedroom in Philly last night! Apparently they like the city, too.

Sharkbytes said...

I saw my first spotted slug this week, but it doesn't look like any of the variations of the leopard slug. All the pix I could find seem to break into more like stripes on the back half. Stop over at and see what you think. It was about 3 inches long. Really cool! Oh, it was in eastern NY.

Sharkbytes said...

Did you have a chance to look at my slug?

Sarah Lake said...

Are these guys helpful or harmless for the garden? We had two in the garden tonight and I promptly had my husband evict them, but then I read they're beneficial, so we went searching for them and put them back in the garden. Then I read that they're considered pests. What gives? Are they friend or foe?

Thanks for your input!

PS: I took some good video and pictures of them if you'd like them.

Martin Miller said...

I have discover a "colony" of the leopards in my back yard here in Akron, Ohio.
At any given night, I will find at least six of these beasties roaming my back yard. My two investigative King Charles Cavaliers take endless pleasure in pushing them with their noses & watching the slugs respond.

Erika Nedeski said...

Just found one in my back yard! Toledo Ohio. I was amazed by its size! Normally see the little slugs around here! Try and post a picture but I have made him a overnight home so I can show my boys tomorrow and will then quickly release him! Gave him decayed leaves and a damp environment. Usually do not like to do this but it may be a one time opportunity!