Saturday, 25 August 2012

Arion

There are many different species of slug in the British countryside.  Among the most noticeable are those large Black or Red ones which seem to be slithering about in vast numbers right now.  On our walk yesterday, this one caught Malcolm's eye.  Considering its size, it would have been difficult to miss it.
Now, there is some debate as to whether this is simply a red form of the Large Black Slug (Arion ater), or a species all of its own, namely Arion rufus.  This specimen was a good 5" long and made an impressive sight.  The orange-striped edges of the foot were particularly eye-catching.
The two sets of tentacles on the head provide the animal with its senses.  The two, larger, optical tentacles on top are sensitive to light and allow the slug to 'see' where it's going.  The lower pair are smaller and provide the slug with a sense of smell.
As Malcolm recoiled with a look of disgust, I reminded him how much we need these slimy creatures to provide food for birds, hedgehogs, badgers, mice, moles, frogs and toads and a host of other predators.  They also help to rid the countryside of rotting vegetation and various other types of detritus.  Slugs like these were once used as a type of 'grease', their squashed bodies provided lubrication for wooden wheels - particularly in 18th century Sweden apparently!
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