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. Interesting post! I enjoyed the text as well as the artwork. I admire the way you use art to help tell information. That's so refreshing!

  2. A very interesting post Debbie! I didn't know they eat dung. What a smart creatures, to be able to eat such things and to be a hermaphrodites at the same time. Very wise choice... Maybe we people will have to do smth similar one day.

  3. Wonderful post! For some reason I've had an itch to draw a slug, but I just see very small ones. I want a big juicy banana slug like yours!

    I didn't realize they eat dung. Maybe I've been looking in the wrong places.

  4. I love these drawings and facts. I am working on my own kid's book with a snail and a slug so I will come back to this again! and now I have Safari instead of Firefox and it lets me comment directly on blogs!