Thursday, April 11, 2013

Black Slug

Arion ater
So you'd probably think that a creature called the Black Slug would always be black, right? Well... not exactly  These European Gastropods actually have white and brown color morphs as well, and tend to be darker the farther north they live.

Black Slugs are nocturnal omnivores, coming out at night to feed on fungi, plants, and carrion. They live in wet areas, and actually produce a slime to keep their skin extra moist. Not only does that moisture help them to breathe better, but the slime itself tastes very bad and helps to deter predators. The mucus also helps them to move easier across the ground.

Like many slug species, the Black Slug is hermaphroditic-- they do not require a partner to reproduce. However, sexual reproduction is the preferred method. After mating, the slugs lay their eggs in dark, moist areas, like under rotting logs or in compost heaps.

Though Black Slugs originated in Europe, they have made their way over to Canada and the United States, and are now considered to be pests. They are very useful in their natural ecosystems-- they consume decaying matter and break up debris-- but in non-native areas they can upset the ecosystem. Gardeners in their native lands are also not fond of the slugs, and poison traps are used to control them. It is not advisable to eat Black Slugs, due to those toxins.

IUCN Status : Not Listed
Location : Europe
Size : Body length up to 6in (15cm)
Classification : Phylum : Mollusca -- Class : Gastropoda
Family : Arionidae -- Genus : Arion -- Species : A. ater
Image : Emoke Denes

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