Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Top 5 Strangest Slugs and Snails

Ever seen a bright pink slug? Or how about a snail with a green shell? A slug that eats earthworms? Or a sea snail with enough venom to kill a man? Behold my top 5 strangest slugs and snails!

Long-tailed Slug (Ibycus rachelae)

This strange slug is native to Sabah, Borneo. It has a small, semi-visible shell that is half covered with flaps of skin. It will wrap its long tail around its yellowy-green body when resting. Not much is known about what it feeds on in its rainforest home, but presumably it is a herbivore (not all slugs are herbivores, as you will discover later on in my post . . .). It fires so called 'love darts' at potential mates - harpoon-like structures made from calcium carbonate. It is thought that the darts inject a hormone into the mate and increases its chances of reproduction. This has earned it the nickname of 'Ninja Slug'!

Emerald Green Snail (Papustyla pulcherrima)

This amazing species has a stunning bright green shell and is found only on Manus Island in northern Papua New Guinea. These small, 4cm long snails live high in the trees feeding upon fungi and lichen that grow there. The shell is covered in a thin protein layer that is bright green. The layer eventually drops away when the snail dies, showing the actual shell, which is bright yellow. In the picture above you can see both the yellow shell and several retaining the green layer.
Unfortunately, these snails were once in high demand, sought after as jewelry. This, along with habitat loss, has led towards these snails becoming critically endangered.

Shelled Slug (Testacella haliotidea)

Slugs are herbivores, right? The only harm they can do is eat our vegetables . . . but not if you're an earthworm and there's a Shelled Slug on the prowl! These 12cm long creatures spend most of their life underground, burrowing through the soil and hunting earthworms. When they find their prey, the worm's flesh is scraped away and eaten using the radula. They can be found in the western Mediterranean and also in Great Britain, though not in Scotland. Most people have never even seen one, not because they're particularly rare, but because they hardly ever come to the surface. If you're lucky then you might find one under a stone or log, but this is quite a rare occurrence.
As if a subterranean, earthworm-hunting slug isn't strange enough, it has a small shell, just like the Long-tailed Slug. Testacella's shell is even smaller though, under a cm in length! It serves no function that we know of.

Triboniopharus aff. graeffei 

If you're wondering what the 'aff.' part means, then it is a term used to show that the organism is related to species in the genus shown before the aff. So in this case, it is thought that the creature is related to the species in the Triboniopharus genus, because we're unsure about what genus this species actually belongs to. 

When I first heard about a bright pink slug from Australia, I hardly believed it. It's hard to believe that this creature is real, but it is. They are found only on Mount Kaputer, Australia. They spend the day in the leaf litter, but when night falls they climb up into the trees to feed on moss and algae growing on the trunk. They can grow to up to 20cm long! They have not yet been given a common name.
Nobody's really sure why the slugs are so vividly coloured. They're not advertising their toxicity, because many birds and other creatures feed on them, showing that the slugs are not poisonous. It has been suggested that the colouration may help them blend in amongst the reddening eucalyptus leaves on the forest floor, but this is unlikely because they spend the whole night up in the trees amongst the green leaves.

Textile Cone (Conus textile)

This sea snail may look pretty and harmless, but it's actually quite the opposite. Found in most tropical oceans and growing up to 10cm long, this creature, along with other Cone snails, is probably one of the most dangerous molluscs in the world. It has a long, harpoon-like radula which it uses to spear prey. Some species harpoon fish, but C. textile specializes in hunting other sea snails. Once a prey item is speared, toxins are injected into its body via the radula. Picking up this creature would be a big mistake, because it will also use its toxins in self-defense as well as hunting. Several human deaths have been attributed to this species.
Females lay hundreds of eggs, which hatch in 16-17 days. The larvae will then float in the current for around 16 days, then settle down and become adults.

I hope that you've enjoyed today's post. Please do let me know which species you thought was strangest using the comment feature.

Until next time, keep on the wild side!

No comments:

Post a Comment