Baby slugs, and what they eat


This image of baby leaf veined slugs, taken by evolutionary genetics Ph.D. student David Winter, is oddly adorable. And Winter's story of his quest to figure out what leaf veined slugs eat is oddly fascinating. Apparently, there's a surprising amount we don't know about slug behavior. Slug diets, in particular, are a black box about which very little is definitively documented.

Sure enough, searching through the literature on the 30 or so species of leaf veined slug in New Zealand, there is no indication of what it is that they eat. That was too depressing for me, we know so little about the biology of our native invertebrates, but this species (Athoracophorus bitentaculatus) isn't particularily rare, we should at least know what this one eats.

So, I took to stepping outside an night time, finding a couple of slugs, and placing them in a bucket. In the morning I'd move them back to the shrubs from which they'd been plucked and collect [from the bucket] a few fecal samples to inspect ...

The Atavism blog: The Sight of a Wild Slug Eating

Via hectocotyli


  1. Fecal Loaf, anyone? For the more sophisticated bio-student, there’s also SlugLoaf. C’mon, try some.

  2. great idea looking at its waste!

    he could also follow them around after being in a bucket all night, they’re probably hungry and will go straight for tacobell!

  3. My son and I I currently have two biology observations going on. A few weeks ago, we caught some pollywogs in Griffith Park her in El Lay. We caught 7 and so far, three have crossed into toadhood. They are excruciatingly cute. Watching them chase after tiny crickets is better than anything on TV. We plan to let them go after all have completed pollywog school and had a few meals. This is the third year we’ve done it and, far from wearing thin, the joys have grown each time.

    The second observation: a few months ago, we went on a bug hunt and caught about 10 millipedes and put them in a little mossy terrarium. Within weeks, there were babies. Lots of them. They like cucumbers. From what I can tell, their poop has become an integral part of the tiny ecosystem. I’ve tried to photography the babies, but I don’t have a camera good enough to resolve them properly. They are also very cute, but I’m afraid to pick them up for fear I’ll accidentally squish them.

    On a completely unrelated note, my son asked what I thought was a brilliant question last weekend that may qualify for the “science questions from toddlers” that you present every now and then. My son is 4 and he asked “Why do the call them rockets when they’re not made out of rocks.” Alas, I had no answer.

    1. I’ve had success picking up tiny caterpillars, too small to safely catch by hand, by very gently using a make-up brush.

    2. “rocket” has nothing to do with rocks. It’s the anglicized form of the Italian word “rocchetta” which means spindle.

      I think one can out this in a way a 4 year old can understand.

    3. according to the interwebs

      Rocket ‘projectile’ (17th c.) is ultimately an allusion to the shape of such objects. It comes via Old French roquette from Italian rocchetto, a diminutive form of rocca ‘spool’ – hence the application to the ‘cylindrical’ rocket.

  4. They just BUBBLE OVER with excitement and glee when I feed mine ordinary table salt.

    It’s the minerals they crave.

  5. A slug diet ? Is that the latest fad from Cosmopolitan ? If you can’t lose weight with that, nothing will.

  6. I am not a scientist nor am I a Slug Specialist…..Slug Squishalist, more like. I’m here to tell you that in Australia anyway, the many many many little baby sluglettes enjoyed all my bok choi and my broccoli. They make lace work of the bok choi leaves, which I then can’t make palatable to anyone other than my chickens.
    I’ve always been anti-slug and nothing lately has shifted my thinking.

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