Slug slime is a mixture of mucus, water and salts that is able to absorb water and has several survival benefits for the slug.
Slugs are infamously slimy creatures and a common sight in the rainy terrain of the UK. Sadly for the poor slug, they’re often seen as pests and treated as such. This means not many people take the time to learn what makes the slug unique and, let me tell you, they’re missing out!
Why are slugs slimy?
As i said before, slug slime has several evolutionary benefits for our little slippery friend. For example, it helps to keep slugs nice and moist to prevent them from drying out. Anyone whose gone on a homicidal salt-shaking spree will tell you that a slug drying out is perhaps the worst thing that can happen to it.
Another, and perhaps the most important, function of slug slime is helping to propel the creature forward when pressure is lifted. At the same time, it also keeps the creature in place when pressure is applied. Slime is to a slug what the wheel is to a car. It’s remarkable that such a tiny creature has evolved to produce such a useful substance.
Yet another benefit of the slime is slightly more unusual. That being, it tastes bad! I’m being deadly serious. What sort of predator, in it’s right mind, would eat such a yucky little mollusc.
There are many other uses of snail slime, so i encourage you to research more about the magnificent creature on your own!
Are any other creatures slimy?
After learning the plethora of beneficial qualities accompanying slug slime, we have to wonder. Has any other animal caught on?
Of course, we’d be remiss to talk about slime without bringing up the mighty snail. Perhaps the most infamously slimy creature, a snail is slimy for the same exact reasons as its homeless cousin: the titular slug.
A more unknown slime producer is the opossum. Opossums are scavengers by nature, and come equipped with many defence mechanisms to protect themselves. Famously, they will ‘play possum’ (or ‘play dead’!) Whilst doing this, opossums will release a slimy mucus from their anal glands that is so stinky, it can ward off even the biggest predators.
The hagfish is a naturally gross animal. Their preferred meal time ritual is to burrow into dead animals before eating their way out. Putrid through and through. When the hagfish itself is being eaten, it will release a slime that chokes the predator and allow the hagfish to escape. Quite cool in its own yucky way.
An honourable mention in a list of slime producers is, well, humans! We produce mucus (like snot) that helps keep infections out. Without snot to prevent them, illnesses and bacteria could easily travel up through our noses and into our bodies, making us sick.
I hope this blog has taught you that even something as unassuming and seemingly gross as slime can be vital in the survival of a species. And let’s not forget the important lesson that slugs aren’t something to be shrugged off, they’re amazing!
To learn more about the humble slug, check out this lovely informational piece by Linda Crampton : https://owlcation.com/stem/Slugs-and-Slug-Slime
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