What is a Banana Slug?
Banana Slugs are Mollusks, which means they are soft bodied with no visible skeleton. They also belong to the class Gastropoda, which can be recognized by having a muscular foot. With only one muscular foot, a slug moves slowly. They are Pulmonates, which means they have a small lung inside their bodies. The hole found on the right side of the slug is a breathing hole, which it can open and close. Banana slugs have two sets of tentacles. The upper pair are optic tentacles and the lower tentacles are sensory organs.
Banana slugs are the second largest slug in the world, growing up to 25cm long. They are called Banana Slugs because their coloring resembles a banana. They can change color which helps them blend in with the leaves on the forest floor.
The Banana Slug lives in moist forest floors along the Pacific Coast of North America. It is a decomposer, which means it chews up leaves, and animal droppings and other dead plant material and recycles it into soil. One of their favorite foods seems to be mushrooms. In the process of eating, they also spread seeds and spores. They have been proved not to eat redwood seedlings.
A Banana Slug’s slime is important in many ways. Slime is important because it keeps the slug’s skin moist so it can breathe through it. Just like the insides of our lungs, the skin must be moist to exchange gasses. A slug’s slime is also used to protect it from predators. They hump up their body to make a bigger animal and produce a thick milky mucous. Most animals don’t like the slimy texture and the fact that it gets gooey when it is put in their mouth. A slug also uses it’s slime for movement. The slime on the underside of the slugs body allows it to glide over leaves and dirt easily. Scientists have tried to reproduce slug slime because it is one of the best natural glues, but have failed.
A slug that is ready to find a mate and lay eggs leaves a chemical in the slime to attract other slugs. Another slug smells the chemical and follows the trail to the slug who left it. They often eat each other’s slime before mating. They begin to circle each other and may bite each other’s right side. They spend hours mating. The Banana Slug’s mating rituals are very unusual.
Banana Slugs may live several years. Scientists do not know exactly how long the average one lives in the wild.
Next time you are in the forest, roll over a log or dig through some leaves, and you might just find one of these interesting mini-beasts.