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  • Christopher Stephens, MSc

Slug Beauty Contest!

Slugs are Ugly Right? Wrong!


A Sea Slug Forages in Lantzville. Species: Shag-Rug aolis Aeolidia papillosa


Slugs are common garden pests famous for being ugly, slimy and voracious. A number of slug species were introduced from Europe with food products in the history of North America and firmly established themselves as unwanted garden guests.


Yet, pest species are just the tip of the iceberg. Slugs are molluscs and are technically just snails without a shell! Slugs are remarkably diverse and adaptive, having conquered an incredible range of natural habitats. North America may have plenty of garden slugs, but remarkable native land slugs ranging from the huge, forest dwelling Banana Slug to the tiny and endangered Dromedary Jumping-slug are sure to captivate naturalists.


In the ocean, however, is where slugs really have a chance to shine. Sea slugs including the famous nudibranches are sea slugs that display beauty that is simply astonishing. Knowing that the glorious creatures they are seeing are in fact slugs would astound many novice naturalists and conservation planners in training. British Columbia, Canada is known to biologists as Canada's sea slug biodiversity hotspot with the cold waters of the Salish Sea, Pacific Ocean and numerous small inlets and coves hosting abundant and diverse representatives of the sea slug category of marine life.


The sea slug pictured, the Shag-Rug aolis Aeolidia papillosa, a dorid, has beautiful coloration and a physical structure that recalls a sea anemone. Many other nudibranches, with their branching or antenna-like extensions known as cerata benefit from increased respiratory capacity through this greater body surface area. As attractive as this slug is, the Shag-Rug aolis is one of the less bizarre and colorful nudibranchs on the west coast. Nudibranch species like the Rainbow dendronotus, which is named in recognition of both its coloration and tree-like shape are true mind benders. In addition to nudibranches, there are a variety of other colorful and mysterious sea slugs, offering the interested marine researcher countless hours of investigation.


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 © 2020 by Christopher M. Stephens Consulting & Writing

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