Walking through the breath-taking forests of Moran State Park, it is not often that someone looks down at the ground but when they do, they will find a forest floor of amazing creatures. One of these critters, native to the Pacific Northwest, is called the Pacific Banana Slug.
Look closer at these odd, yellow individuals, and there will be two tentacle eyeballs staring back. Their eyes are on the tip of their tentacles to look for predators while they feel and sniff for food with their lower tentacles. Banana slugs’ mouths are on the base of their body and have a sharp tongue to grind food up as it passes through its body. These creatures are fond of herbaceous plants, mushrooms, dead plants and even animal droppings. After processing their food, the nutrients seep into the soil, making them vital to decomposition in the forest.
Because they are slow-moving creatures and won’t be able to outrun their predators, banana slugs have unique survival techniques. One technique is that their slime makes other animals’ tongues go numb. This amazing ability is actually being studied by scientists who are trying to copy slug slime. Scientists are particularly interested in slime’s ability to either be sticky or help the slug glide along the forest floor. Slugs hibernate when the conditions aren’t right. They do this by secreting a layer of protective mucus; they then bury themselves in soil and go into a deep sleep. Slugs are not everyone’s favorite creature but they are vital to the forests ecosystem, provide food for our soil and are quite cute!