Monday, March 5, 2012

Food for thought

Dining at top, various escape postures below
Mushrooms are gourmet fare for banana slugs so, in past winters, I've sometimes encountered banana slugs (Ariolimax columbianus) as I searched for fungi in Howarth Park. This year we've had less than half our usual amount of rainfall and I've found very few mushrooms and fewer slugs.

I also often come across scat that appears to be strategically placed, often on high rocks at high points along various trails or at trail intersections. Sometimes, there are more than one deposit. I have yet to hone my scat identification skills but have learned that some of the mammals that live in the park communicate via scat placement.

A few days ago, on a rocky trail I saw a banana slug. When I got closer I saw that the slug was eating a freshly deposited pile of dung. When I sat down to sketch the scene the slug began to move away from me and it's meal, rather quickly for a slug. I sat as quietly as I could until it finally circled around and headed back, stopping short of the dung and hunkering down to wait me out near the interrupted meal. I didn't like to keep it from it's meal and moved on after making a few sketches.
 Although dung isn't as yummy to banana slugs as fungi it's still a regular part of their diet along with seeds, roots, fruit, algae and carrion. In turn, slugs are eaten by crows, snakes, ducks, shrews, moles, salamanders, porcupines and the occasional human.
Hunkered down, waiting for the intruder (me) to leave.
You may have noticed that I refer to the slug as"it". Sometimes there's no way to tell the gender of creatures I encounter and sketch but banana slugs are hermaphrodites, able to act as either male or female. There are some who seem to think that slugs are sexy little beasts and study their sexual activities with what appears to be great zeal. Interested in knowing more? Follow these links for discussion and videos of the sex lives of slugs:
 Home of the Slug Love
North Coast Journal

Sexual escapades aside, banana slugs are still pretty fascinating:
San Francisco State University Department of Geography
National Parks Traveler
Birds Amoré


  1. Fascinating Debbie! And I love your use of the colored paper for your sketches.

  2. well, I realize I've never stopped to sketch a slug before, I can't say they appeal to me,although I admit their mating is very sexy; but you managed to make beautiful drawings making them appear quite attractive!


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