Caution: Do NOT Lick!
April 15, 2011 7:29 AM   Subscribe

I Heart Banana Slugs, or Is That Piece of Poop Moving?! Daniel Williford, a District Interpretive Specialist working in the Bay Area's Santa Cruz Mountains, gives an enthusiastic overview of the beloved banana slug.

Oftentimes overshadowed by its image as the University of Santa Cruz mascot, the slug inhabits areas of the West Coast from San Diego County to Alaska. Although hermaphroditic, in typical male-oriented worldview criteria they are differentiated by the size of the male genitalia.

All hail the Banana Slug!
posted by PepperMax (50 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's a Northern California middle school camp legend that kissing a banana slug brings good luck. Of course I kissed one.
posted by muddgirl at 7:42 AM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


they are differentiated by the size of the male genitalia

tiny-penised banana slugs ooze like THIS but big-penised banana slugs ooze like THIS
posted by DU at 7:52 AM on April 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Although hermaphroditic, in typical male-oriented worldview criteria they are differentiated by the size of the male genitalia.

Maybe it's just harder to differentiate them by the female genitalia (or by anything else)? Anyway, a banana slug's dick is as long as its entire body, making it a bit difficult to ignore. A slug is almost as much an appendage to its dick as its dick is an appendage to the slug.
posted by pracowity at 7:56 AM on April 15, 2011


Please can we get Randall (of badass honey badger fame) to do the video?
posted by londonmark at 7:57 AM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I slugged a banana once. It wasn't even man enough to slug me back.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:04 AM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Every time I go hiking in the coastal mountains I look for banana slugs, because honestly they are really cute. I have to disappoint anyone who was wondering, after some experimentation, I realized that they don't actually eat bananas.
posted by happyroach at 8:04 AM on April 15, 2011


If this guy loves them so much he should marry them.
posted by ReeMonster at 8:05 AM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring Banana Slug!
posted by papercake at 8:06 AM on April 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


I admit that I thought banana slugs were some exotic South American animal and UC-Santa Cruz was just using them as mascot because they're all hippies up there. The video was very interesting, and you can see the park ranger's enthusiasm shining (sliming?) through.

I will say, though, that I've been to and/or lived in San Diego County, Santa Cruz, and Alaska and I've never seen hide nor hair (uh, so to speak) of a banana slug. I've tromped all over Palomar Mountain (that's their San Diego County range), wandered through old-growth redwoods in Half Dome (prime range), and hiked through coastal rainforest in southern Alaska (limit of their northern range). They're bright yellow! The very nice park ranger in the video explains that they can be easy to miss, but I'm baffled.

In any case, thanks for posting this and reminding folks that banana slugs aren't just a mascot.
posted by librarylis at 8:14 AM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, for some reason they are really easy to miss. The one I kissed is honestly the first one I've ever seen, although I grew up in and hiked around the Pacific-Northwesty parts of CA.

I think it's because most of them just look like lumps on a log (even if it is a neon yellow lump - the one I saw was more of a pale yellow). There just not in a size range that we associate with slugs - they're more fungus-sized than anything else.
posted by muddgirl at 8:21 AM on April 15, 2011


They're all over the place in the redwoods.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:38 AM on April 15, 2011


librarylis, this site explains that "individual slugs will change colors with alterations in food consumption, light exposure, and moisture levels. Color may also indicate whether a slug is healthy, injured, or what age they are." This & their preference for areas of heavy ground cover might possibly explain the lack of sightings in their prime habitats in the areas you've visited (which I might add are impressive in their range - good on you!)
posted by PepperMax at 8:38 AM on April 15, 2011


You know, I consider myself an animal lover, but I have a complete empathy fail when people tell me these things are cute. Let me tell you a slug story. Imagine a boy in his impetuous youth exploring the tidal pools of an English coastal resort. At school he is awkward, self-conscious, and uncoordinated, but in 'the field' he is Indiana Jones of the naturalist world. He sets off to discover new species of marine life (by which he understands to mean he'll show his mum). The first hour brings slim pickings. Surly David Attenborough did not have to wait this long to find sea lions and polar bears? And where were all the octopuses hiding? He sticks his fingers in a few anemones (gross!), he chases a few crabs under rocks, and he finds a seagull (deceased), but the big discovery eludes him. It is nearly time to go in, but just as his mother calls him back to the car, he spots an enormous sea slug. Surely the biggest ever recorded! He makes a grab for it, picturing the reaction of his school chums and wondering what he's going to feed it when... it slips through his fingers. No, that's not quite right, it hasn't slipped anywhere, it's still on his fingers. What happened? Did he squeeze it too hard? Was the slug already dead? The confusion takes a few moments to lift. With the dreamlike sounds of his mother's call in his ears, he stiffens. The air cools. He stares blankly at his fouled, stinking hand as he realises the prize slug was in fact a giant human turd. The slug/turd has oozed between his fingers and is now dripping from his palm in great lumps and splashing on his sandals and his mother is getting closer. He cannot let her see the slug/turd. He gropes his way to the nearest pool and thrusts his hand in, only barely registering the BRIGHT RED STAR FISH at the bottom. He cleans himself as best he can and tries to shake off the horror of what had happened. He climbs numbly back to his mother and tells her about the seagull. She tries to comfort him: yes, it was a shame, but the bird had probably had a very good life. Everything dies eventually, that’s nature’s way of keeping things tidy. What else had he found, she asks? Nothing, he says, sniffing cautiously at his fingernails, unaware that he would smell phantom poo in the presence of slugs for the rest of his natural life. Animals are boring, he announces, he's into Lego now.
posted by londonmark at 8:46 AM on April 15, 2011 [17 favorites]


londonmark: Favorited for Surly David Attenborough.
posted by SlyBevel at 8:52 AM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


/Facepalm
posted by londonmark at 8:57 AM on April 15, 2011


I was going to say that the worst thing is stepping on a big slug barefoot, but I think that londonmark found a way to preemptively beat that. That story makes stepping on a banana slug seem pretty good, actually.
posted by Forktine at 8:58 AM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


One thing I learned at summer camp up in Seattle: if you get stung by nettles, you can neutralize it by rubbing banana slug slime on it.

Um, yay?
posted by yeloson at 9:02 AM on April 15, 2011


Surly David Attenborough don't care.
posted by KingEdRa at 9:11 AM on April 15, 2011


"Of course I kissed one."

And look at you now!
posted by sneebler at 9:11 AM on April 15, 2011


They're common in southwestern British Columbia too. If you hold your hand in front of one (3" away) they can sense the heat and will kind of rear up and wave their tentacles at you. It's entertaining in a slow-motion way. Loads of fun on rainy Winter days!
posted by sneebler at 9:19 AM on April 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


ProTip: They don't actually taste like bananas.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:25 AM on April 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


londonmark: "The air cools. He stares blankly at his fouled, stinking hand as he realises the prize slug was in fact a giant human turd."
...
londonmark: "/Facepalm"
posted by idiopath at 9:28 AM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


UCSC SLUGS REPRESENT!

Or, you know, we could climb a tree have a picnic, and then we could hang out in a meadow with a bottle of wine and watch the stars.
posted by JimmyJames at 9:29 AM on April 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Banana Slug Foster is quite a spectacle, though, when you set the rum to blazing.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:33 AM on April 15, 2011


My mom had them in her rose garden when we were living in BC. We used to put slug bait out for them, because sometimes my parents liked swimming in the pool at night and walking barefoot back to the house in the summer in the dark was like walking through a minefield. A dark, slimy minefield.
posted by janepanic at 9:35 AM on April 15, 2011


I'm glad I already ate my daily banana. Great post I'm sure, but I'm outta here.
posted by marxchivist at 9:40 AM on April 15, 2011


Banana Slugs I have loved (from afar, no kissing involved eew):
In Stern Grove in San Francisco (like seriously, this was about 100 yards from super-busy 19th Ave)
At Muir Woods
posted by sarahnade at 9:42 AM on April 15, 2011


Campers in the Pacific coast mountains who leave a cup of water sitting out in their tent so they don't have to fumble around with a flashlight to have a a quick sip in the middle of the night are advised that banana slugs like to wrap themselves around the circumference of the lip of your cup. They also impart a beer-like froth to your water.
posted by jamaro at 9:53 AM on April 15, 2011


Docents at various state parks have warned me that handling or kissing a banana slug will generally kill it, although not right away. The oils/salts/sweat on your skin isn't good for them. As in fatally not good. Please just leave 'em where they are.
posted by GuyZero at 10:33 AM on April 15, 2011


Or, you know, we could climb a tree have a picnic, and then we could hang out in a meadow with a bottle of wine and watch the stars.

You know when I was in school there I was hiking along from Oaks college to the arboretum through the meadow on the North side of campus. I found a deer leg, missing the associated deer and muscle. Not so sure about that star watching session....
posted by dibblda at 10:49 AM on April 15, 2011


damn i thought it said obama slugs
posted by kitchenrat at 11:13 AM on April 15, 2011


Nope. These slugs were born in America.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:17 AM on April 15, 2011


*not intended to be a factual sentiment
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:18 AM on April 15, 2011


Back when I lived in Santa Cruz, a million years ago, I was renting a beat-up old cottage with a decaying wood floor that was rotted through in spots. I learned, early on, not to go to the bathroom barefoot at night, at least not with turning on the light so I could scout the terrain. Nothing like stepping barefoot on a banana slug while half-asleep....
posted by Kat Allison at 11:38 AM on April 15, 2011


Hiking around Vancouver, and up and down the coast in general, led to real familiarity with giant slugs-- mostly green or brown in BC, but still 5 to 8 inches long. Taking campers out on a hike, the group would get spread out, so the kids in front would yell "SLUG!" when they found a monster on the trail. Then every kid who passed would make appropriate squeals of disgust when they passed it, so that the hike was punctuated by "SLUG!" 'ergh!' "gross!" 'squeel' 'ewww', until the counselor, who was always at the very end with the slow kids, passed the dread slug.

They were useful, since you always knew where the kids were, thanks to the slugs.
posted by jrochest at 11:44 AM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, please don't kiss banana slugs, or any wildlife really. And if you are a camp counsellor, don't encourage kids to kiss wildlife.

Really, my environmental camp counsellors were terrible, terrible people, but in their defense they were 16.
posted by muddgirl at 12:00 PM on April 15, 2011


Metafilter: phantom poo in the presence of slugs
posted by CynicalKnight at 12:00 PM on April 15, 2011


Yes, please don't kiss banana slugs, or any wildlife really. And if you are a camp counsellor, don't encourage kids to kiss wildlife.

But wolverines are so dreamy!
posted by Sys Rq at 12:38 PM on April 15, 2011


Slugs horrify me, and all attempts to cute-ify slugs just backfire. When I step on a common garden slug while barefoot I feel the need to run and boil my foot. So GIANT SLUGS are the stuff of my nightmares. If I hiked in the Pacific Northwest I would have to do so in a suit of armor made from salt.

And then I would get licked to death by a bear.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:40 PM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think it's awesome that Chris Elliott is still working. But boy his love of those slugs seems a but unnatural.
posted by lumpenprole at 12:44 PM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


> Back when I lived in Santa Cruz, a million years ago, I was renting a beat-up old cottage with a decaying wood floor that was rotted through in spots.

... for $1200 a month!

at UCSC you were guaranteed to see, kiss, or at least pet a slug. I like that they eat amanita muscaria mushrooms, but whether they experience psychotropic effects is undetermined!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:48 PM on April 15, 2011


One May or June, at the end of a hike in Muir Woods, we saw large areas of a stream bank cordoned off. Posted signs read, "Banana Slug Nursery," illustrated with cartoon banana slugs in diapers. We looked around. Didn't see a thing besides the usual dirt, leaves, twigs, rocks, spiders, ants... We looked at each other and shrugged. Where were the banana slugs? So disappointing. We moved on.

Next time we visited Muir Woods it was July or August. We happened to come through that same area. Still the same areas cordoned off, still the same signs. We inspected the ground, again, dubiously. "Hey look!" There they were, sure enough, big fat bright yellow slugs. They were just too small to see, before.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 1:12 PM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Licking a banana slug was an officially sanctioned part of the program when I went through Outdoor School in 6th grade in Oregon. Though, in actuality we didn't lick a slug - instead, we would swipe a finger along the slug's back, then lick the finger and feel our tongues go tingly and numb. In hindsight, I'm pretty surprised that didn't get dropped well before I went through the program...
posted by polymath at 1:46 PM on April 15, 2011


One time I was walking through the Berkeley campus at sunset with what I thought was the most beautiful young woman in the entire city. We were on a path in a eucalyptus grove. We were shitfaced. There were banana slugs all over the blacktop footpath. She got a little freaky. We were wearing shorts and flip-flops. I had never seen a banana slug before. I got the notion they were really dead eucalyptus leaves, not slugs. I told her they were eucalyptus leaves, not what she thought, completely benign. I demonstrated! I stomped on one to show its harmlessness. I splattered both of our legs with slug guts.

She got even more freaky after that. It was not fun.
posted by bukvich at 4:35 PM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I see banana slugs reasonably often when I run in the morning and they do not look like pieces of poop. They look like six inch moving boogers.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 4:39 PM on April 15, 2011


I'm a bit andwidth limited where I am, so I don't know if the video covers this, but one of the more interesting/disturbing things about banana slugs is apophallation, where slugs bite their mate's penis off (link has videos for the apo-curious).
posted by Sparx at 4:51 PM on April 15, 2011


From Sparx's link:
This is a slug penis. This particular slug was injected with the peptide hormone APGWamide. This hormone causes erections within minutes. I am using this for several aspects of my research
A quick googling makes it clear that APGWamide is effective in giving instant boners to all manner of mollusk.

SCIENCE!
posted by Sys Rq at 5:11 PM on April 15, 2011


My first encounter with a Banana slug when I lived in Washington was when I was out for a walk.

my inner dialog:"Is that a turd? Oh shit, why is it moving? Oh god how is a turd eating a Frito?"
posted by ArgentCorvid at 7:59 PM on April 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


A few years ago there was a proposal in the CA legislature to make the banana slug the state mollusk. There were many presentations one of which informed us that the animal has the largest penis relative to body length in the animal kingdom. Furthermore during the sex act the "male" breaks off the penis which remains in the "female", the "male" then becomes a "female".
posted by shnarg at 6:42 AM on April 16, 2011


I saw these in a forest in the Smith River region and in a national park on Vancouver Island (both days it was overcast and rainy). The damn things don't even move when you poke them. Explains the term "sluggish." How can they be an evolutionary success? They're just lying there waiting to be eaten, unless they're poisonous or have other hidden defenses.
posted by bad grammar at 7:19 AM on April 17, 2011


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