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THE OUTDOORS DIGEST | FIELD GUIDE

Banana slug

December 23, 2003|David Lukas

(LA)[ ARIOLIMAX COLUMBIANUS ]

Lurking in the damp coastal forests of central and northern California is a creature that packs more teeth than a shark, smells with its body and leaves a slime trail wherever it travels. Giants of the slug world, banana slugs are native mollusks without the external shells of their snail cousins (though they do have a tiny internal one). Equipped reproductively as both male and female, couples pair off during the rainy season for an athletic courtship ritual that involves hours of circling while waving overhead their enormous genitalia -- as long as the slugs' bodies. The slimy twosome often become so entangled that they must apophallate -- chew off each other's phalli -- to separate.

NATURAL HISTORY

Native slugs prefer native plants, and they have been wrongly blamed for chomping on gardens and flowerbeds full of plants introduced from Europe.

KEY CHARACTERISTICS

Growing as long and as yellow-green as a banana, these slugs see through eyes atop a long, upper pair of tentacles and feel their way around the forest floor with a shorter, lower pair of tentacles.

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