Sunday, January 4, 2009

Bananaslug - really!

ariolimax450.jpg
Ariolimax columbianus


Jane, our intrepid British Columbia slug hunter searched for the alien Worm Slug (Boettgerilla pallens) without success on Vancouver Island this fall, but she did capture a native Pacific Bananaslug (Ariolimax columbianus) in Vancouver. She made a liason with the Malacologist Robert Forsyth at the Vancouver airport, just as he was about to board a plane to Ottawa to attend COSEWIC (Committee On the Status of Endangered Wildlife In Canada) meetings, and slipped him the container, which he carried onto his flight and passed to me as I met him at the Lord Elgin Hotel. The giant slug (120 mm) was alive and well, though it had thoroughly slimed up the moss and paper towel in its container.

The skin of this beast is amazingly slick. Although the body has longitudinal grooves, they are finely incised on a smooth flat surface, nothing like the tubercular ridges of Limax maximus. The colour is like green pea soup, except that the foot fringe pales to yellow toward the front. Most Ariolimax have black spots. This one is unmarked, even lacking the usual black marking in the centre of the mantle. On Vancouver Island we found the Bananaslugs wildly variable, from the usual olive green to white - to orange sherbet coloured, with varying amounts of black, some spotted like pinto ponies! Sorry to paint such a dull one for you - but not sorry to have made the close aquaintance of another giant slug, whose facial expressions are ever changing, and who on more than one occasion raised its head up, eye stalks straining, "the better to see you with, my painter".

Large invertebrates always amaze me, whether they be crayfish or starfish or clams or slugs. As highly visible representatives of the overwhelmingly vast and diverse world of tiny invertebrates, they give me an insight into their feelings and make me feel very small in the face of their giantness. It's a strange sort of inside-out feeling!

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