Sunday, February 20, 2011

Don't Pick Up a Banana Slug

Working in the yard today I came across a critter I did not expect to see:  a Banana Slug (Ariolimax columbianus ?).  I have seen many of these in the Santa Cruz Mountains and Muir Woods, and once or twice in Tilden Park.  I thought they made their homes exclusively under redwood trees.  But yet, here he is, on rocky soil and more exposed than any I have seen before.

These slugs excrete a slimy substance to keep themselves hydrated.  A naturalist at Muir Woods told us that most animals will not eat banana slugs due to the slime they produce on their skin, but raccoons have found they can wash off the slime in water and then dine on these delicacies.  The slime evidently turns into an incredible glue according to those who have gotten it on their hands, so I would recommend letting these creatures be.

This guy is not nearly as yellow as some.  Some are truly deserving of their banana moniker, a true banana yellow and banana shape, and if you step on one, I suppose you will get a true banana squish.  This one is one of the bigger specimens I have seen, between 7 and 8 inches (~20 cm) long (see the penny in the picture for scale).   He was moving along at a sluggish pace, 1 body length in about 2 minutes, or about .00006 miles per hour by my calculations.

As lowly as the banana slug may seem, it does get respect on one college campus. Most colleges and universities here in the U.S. pick a mascot that is strong or fierce, like a lion or bear or Trojan, but the University of California at Santa Cruz chose the banana slug.   Why?  I suppose they have their reasons.


  1. eewwwwwwwwwwwwwwww what's wrong with those Santa Cruz folks?

  2. Awesome pictures! I think it's a fascinating creature.

  3. They was quite a battle between students and uc administration over the name of the school mascot. The name was put to a popular vote and the banana slug moniker won. However the old fogies in administration thought they knew what was best and disregarded the vote and namEd the mascot the seals.
    Protests ensued and the fogies backed down.
    The banana slug is very much part of the UCSC campus, just ask any student who has lived on campus, amongst the redwoods, and watched as the yellow banana slug would come into their dorm rooms. UCSC is now proud of their mascot (John Travolta wore a slug t-shirt in pulp fiction) and it is probably the most unique mascot in the country.
    My daughter is about to graduate from UCSC, a member of college 10 and a proud banana slug. Go Slugs!

  4. Thanks, Leslie! I figured there was a good story behind that choice. Go Slugs!

  5. When I was a kid, 40 yrs ago, we used to get them, or something like them, in our yard in Corona CA. We lived up in the southern foothills, adjacent to undeveloped land. They'd only come out at night, and were ridiculously long. I've never been able to find a habitat listing for them in Corona, and can't get anyone to pay attention and go look to see if they're still there.