3-6-12 Banana Slug from Ron’s Animal Attraction Series (Exhibit)

Phylum Molluska, Class Gastropoda, Family Arionidae

Ariolimax californicus

DISTRIBUTION; Central California

HABITAT:  Require moist surroundings. Damp forest floors and crevices in rotting trees.

APPEARANCE: Snails that have lost their external shell. Banana slugs derive their common name from their bright yellow color, although they can also be green, black, brown, or white.  Have two sets of retractable tentacles on the head. The first and larger pair is used for sensing light; the smaller pair detects odors. The mouth is on the underside of the head with the anal and genital pores close by.

DIET: Detritivores and herbivores, they eat dead and decomposing plant and animal matter, including feces. They also eat living plants, particularly mushrooms.

REPRODUCTION/DEVELOPMENT: As hermaphrodites, each individual has both male and female organs. While they are known to self-fertilize, for the most part they cross-fertilize.  Courtship behavior of the banana slug is elaborate, with both partners engaged in ritualized bouts of lunging, nipping, and sideswiping with their tails until the two eventually line up side by side, genital pore to genital pore. The pair may intertwine for several hours before copulation begins. Each pair alternately releases and receives sperm, which is stored until the eggs are laid and fertilized in the rainy season.

Separation is even more dramatic than copulation since the slugs penises often as long their bodies may become entangled. The pair may resort to apophallation, a fancy term for the deliberate amputation of the penis with one or the other copulating individual gnawing off his or his partner’s penis. The dismembered slug, unable to deliver sperm, functions solely as a female.

MORTALITY/LONGEVITY:  Predators include birds, raccoons, snakes, and salamanders. Life span is thought to be 3–6  years. 

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