Sunday, October 5, 2008

Limax maximus art critic

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The Giant Garden Slug, Limax maximus, has charmed me again. I haven't seen one since I was four years old, in Seattle, Washington. The subtle colours, the handsome spots and stripes, the graceful reaching, tentative progress, delicate cool touch - I've been enthralled and delighted all over again as I turned the scrap of dampened board this way and that to orient the creature according to my painting as it crawls, like the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland.... faster and faster just to stay in the same place. This individual was collected along with a young one, in a tangled copse of mixed woods in a town on Georgian Bay named Dyers Bay on the Bruce Penninsula, Ontario, in August of this year. This marvelous mollusc is about 12 centimetres fully extended, and I think it is not quite full grown!

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1 comment:

  1. Monster Slugs at Dyers Bay

    from the Bruce Peninsula Press 2008(13):17, 17 Sept-8 Oct 2008 --

    What may be the northernmost Ontario population of a giant slug has been found on the slope of the Niagara Escarpment above the settlement of Dyers Bay, by a team from the Bishops Mills Natural History Centre.

    Almost all of the slugs that live around houses and in Canadian gardens are introduced from Europe, and many of these are only hardy enough to live in southern Ontario and the warmer parts of British Columbia. One of these species is Limax maximus the Giant Garden Slug, which is 10-20 cm long, brownish and heavily spotted with black or dark brown.

    This species lives in gardens, along roads, in wooded areas adjacent to human settlement, and on waste ground and other disturbed habitats. It is probably native to the Mediterranean region, but is now widespread in Europe. There are places in southern Ontario where this species is common, but in Ottawa it is believed that introductions are killed off by winter cold, though some may survive near heated buildings.

    In 1990, when he was working on a survey of the amphibians and reptiles of the Peninsula, Dr Frederick W. Schueler saw one of these slugs in the woods above the settlement of Dyers Bay.

    After a thunderstorm on the evening of 23 August 2008, Dr Schueler and Judy Courteau walked the Dyers Bay Road, through the escarpment slope forest between the Bruce Trail and the settlement. This was part of an expedition across southern Ontario trying to refind old records of introduced snails and slugs.

    They found two Limax maximus on the roadside and on the trunk of a Birch tree. This confirms that the species has persisted here, away from buildings, for 18 years. These slugs seek shelter during the day under debris, stones, wood and vegetation and emerge to feed at night and during wet weather. They eat mostly dead vegetation and fungi, but roots, fruit and leafy crops form a small part of their diet.

    Deep snow, and access to hibernation refuges among broken rock may explain their long-term survival here, at the latitude of Ottawa.

    Afterwards, Fred & Judy spoke to Craig Arthurs, who lives in Dyers Bay, and he said that they see big striped slugs similar to these occasionally on the beach. He particularly recalls one about 15 years ago which was on the patio of their cottage, and attracted the attention of his children.

    The Bishops Mills Natural History Centre (see http://pinicola.ca) is working with others interested in introduced slugs and snails to prepare a guide to these species in Canada (see http://mollus.ca/). They welcome stories or pictures of any of these animals, especially Giant Garden Slugs, from the Bruce Peninsula. Pictures or accounts may be sent to Fred Schueler, or at the Bishops Mills Natural History Centre, RR#2 Oxford Station, Ontario, Canada K0G 1T0, (613)258-3107.

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