More Than Just a Slug

More than Just a Slug 

As a UC Santa Cruz alumni I feel a special affinity with the banana slug. Whether it’s the first or hundredth encounter, banana slugs excite and astound people. Their bright yellow coloration and slimy bodies make them a fun creature to interact with. 
When hunting for banana slugs with Junior Rangers and other guests at Little Basin, I tell them to look along the ground in moist areas.  Banana slugs need to stay moist and slimy. To avoid desiccation they hang out in the cool leaf litter in the deeply shaded forest. Although they are often found on the ground banana slugs sometimes climb up trees as well. These crazy critters can use their mucus to suspend themselves in the air and lower back to the forest floor. I’ve never seen one, but I always tell guests to keep their eyes peeled for floating banana slugs. 
Often when guiding Junior Rangers I ask them to guess whether the banana slug we see is a boy or girl. The students are surprised to learn the answer is both! These slugs are hermaphroditic, having both male and female parts. 
Banana slugs provide an important service for the forest. They eat decaying matter in the forest and excrete nitrogen rich waste which helps fertilize the forest. Next time you see one of these cute fellers make sure to thank them! 
~ Naturalist Marlayna Kirby