Western Society of Malacologists Field Guide to the Slug

True story. I woke up late one night, probably about 3:27 am. Could have been 3:28, who knows. Anyway I woke up and thought to myself, "What is a slug?" Now I know that slugs are in the phylum Mollusca which puts them in the same major group of animals as clams, snails, chitons, and cephalopods like octopuses and squid. I guessed that they were in the Class Gastropoda which encompasses all the snails. And I was pretty sure that they were in the Subclass Pulmonata which includes the terrestrial snails (they have lungs instead of gills). But was I right? Was there a particular family just for the slugs? How many species were there? Were they completely separate from the pulmonates (terrestrial snails)?

Of course these are all important things to know. You can’t tell when you’ll want to impress some cute girl at the bar. "Just yesterday I collected a wonderful slug, family (insert proper name here), I believe."

Well I looked around and to my utter disbelieve there really wasn’t much information you could find on slugs! I still have yet to find out how many species are even suspected of being in Missouri. But I was able to find a nice little book that answered a few of my questions. Western Society of Malacologists Field Guide to the Slug by David George Gordon.

This sleek little manual of 48 pages is actually a pretty good introduction to our slimy little friends. A few keen things I learned.

1. A slug is (for our purposes) a snail without a shell. But they didn’t all come from the same ancestor. Different types of snails have given rise to different species that became slugs!

2. Slugs don’t want to dry out. To combat this they produce a mucus that absorbs water. This explains why, after getting slug slime on your hands, when you try to wash it off it only gets worse.

This book also has slug anatomy, finding slugs, controlling slugs, and observing slugs (at home and in the wild). And now when I see that cute girl I can say, "Just the other day I caught a Limax maximus, they’re cannibalistic you know."

Gordon, D. G. 1994. The Western Society of Malacologists field guide to the slug. Sasquatch Books, Seattle. 48pp. ISBN 1-57061-011-8