I am not going to apologize for what is to come; I am only going to warn you. This post contains graphic images that are probably just fine for children (because they’re usually fascinated with this kind of stuff,) but may gross out the adult who realizes what they’re looking at. If that isn’t enough, some of the text might assist.
The area where I live is apparently ideal for gastropods, mostly slugs, and we’re not talking little garden slugs either, but massive leopard-spotted zeppelins big enough to trip over. I think they’re keeping the raccoon population down. This year has been especially noteworthy, in that I actually have to use a flashlight when walking around at night because they’re all over the place, even onto the porch.
I mentioned before that I often go barefoot, so you can imagine what it’s like if I fail to see one in my path. Actually no, you can’t, because the mucus of these mutated behemoths is a special compound similar to what they used to attach the heat tiles to the space shuttle – it doesn’t come off with dragging your feet in the grass or across the concrete walkway, and it absorbs water to become an expanded mass of super slime. It takes a scrub brush, or a knife blade scraped sideways across your sole, and then you might as well toss the knife.
This is just in case you thought I was exaggerating; the blue plastic is an old recycling bin now used for composting, which doesn’t help matters any – they adore all the unacceptable vegetable matter left over from meal preparation.
Slug anatomy is a very peculiar thing, and serves as a reminder that so many animals that we know of are strikingly similar, because gastropods radically depart from these patterns. In between vomiting, you may have noticed a large opening in the side of the slug in the above image, and a close-up of this opening is shown at right. This is a pneumostome, and how slugs and snails breathe. All it does is open wide and draw air into a large interior space that’s heavily vascularized, and oxygen is absorbed into the system therein. It is only on the right, and cycles open and closed quite slowly, which comes as a surprise I’m sure.
The following photos show something that I’ve been hoping to see for a while now, one of many items on my target images list – we’ve already established long ago that I’m weird, so there’s no need to comment. I might have missed this display entirely if it wasn’t for my curiosity, but tonight as I discarded some cooking grease into a brush pile (keeping it out of the drains,) I realized one of the trees in the yard was especially shiny in the flashlight, encircled to a height of two meters with mucus trails – I’ve seen them often, but never to such an extent. Wandering around the tree in examination, I came across a sight that made me run get the camera. What you are about to see may shock you. This… is slug porn. [Yes, read that in James Earl Jones’ voice.]
Up to this point, the only description I’d had of the curious sex life of gastropods came from the naturalist Gerald Durrell, having witnessed it as a boy growing up in Greece. Most, if not all species of slugs and snails are hermaphroditic, possessing both male and female sex organs – but no, they cannot go fuck themselves (someone had to say it.) The species Durrell witnessed actually entwined with the assistance of a bizarre mechanism that fired little darts from each snail, attached to a line of some kind, and they would harpoon one another and reel in mutually. This, (un)fortunately, is not the case with the leopard slug, which may go by many different names but is best identified with the scientific name Limax maximus. First off, they routinely do what the more adventurous of our species attempts (usually to comical results) and bump uglies while dangling from a harness of their own design, visible at top. The purpose of this, other than the obvious spice it adds, I can only speculate on, but I’m guessing it improves mobility. On first sighting, since it’s darker than the normal mucus, I wondered if it might actually have been part of the slugs’ anatomy, stretched to an absurd degree, but since it was left behind I determined it was just a slime rope.
I’m going to pause a moment and put you off certain foods forever by just mentioning them here. Cinnamon twists. Braided breadsticks. Salt water taffy. Yes, I’m evil as well as weird.
But let’s not leave our amorous couple hanging [add “shameless” to that list.] They then extrude their brilliant blue penises and wrap them around the each other, but not, as you undoubtedly surmised, in some form of testosterone-drunk comparison; this is how they mate – as Alex and his droogs might put it, a little of the old “out-out.”
You were expecting them to come from further back, and not the region of their right ear, weren’t you? I told you slug anatomy is radical, but would you listen? Nooooo. The reason the penis extends from the ear is to hear… no, I’m not going to do it; it’s too easy. Slugs don’t have ears, anyway (because there’s a penis there! And their anus, too, also on the right – intelligent design my ass.)
Now apparently, they usually try to find a branch to do this on and end up dangling from the underside, which means I am definitely never going out at night without a flashlight again, because catching this in the face while wandering under a tree is an experience I will not regret never having had when I die. You thought walking through spiderwebs was bad…
Eventually they unwrapped things up and put the toys away, heading off in separate directions and disappointing another slug who’d been hanging around (figuratively only) hinting at a threesome. And I added images to my stock sure to catapult me to fame and recognition, and earn me a nickname no worse than many I had in high school – it started early.
In looking up some details for this post, I ran across this video from the BBC’s Life in the Undergrowth program, with David Attenborough of course, which displays the whole process. It was actually made slightly more disgusting than it normally is, hard as that may be to conceive, through the idiotic addition of slimy sound effects as they move. Trust a guy who’s done a lot of slug images: they don’t make a sound.
As a merciful and completely inadequate offset, I leave you with a cute photo, which by now you’re convinced I cannot take, of a fawn in the neighbor’s yard the other day. The observation was too brief to get much more than this, so I chose the best one. This is just to prove I am not utterly without social skills…
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The list of puns and titles that I rejected was lengthy, and even more painful, so you should be grateful…