Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Ambulatory Snot and Gastropodcasts

Our friend Mike once described a mutual friend as being "so lazy, if she shit the bed she'd just roll it out with a stick." Which puts me in mind of slug poop.

I hadn't given much thought to slug poop in, like, ever, until I learned that certain slugs have developed a hankering for baby birds. They climb right up the tree and snarf away. No one has actually observed the slugs doing this. We infer it because baby birds have been found with debilitating slug injuries and also because the slugs leave their poop behind. Slugs poop? It's obvious, I guess--everything poops--but somehow I never visualized slug poop. Even in an election season.

If I'm being honest, I sort of imagined slugs didn't poop at all. Just sort of ate stuff and got bigger and bigger, like a constipated mucus ball. But poop they do.

I had to look it up. Turns out there's more to slug poop than meets the eye, which, on the good days, it doesn't. Slugs (or, as snails call them, "the homeless") sometimes poop and then roll it up. Their anus and lips are very close together--nothing is that far apart on a slug--and sometimes they pull out a string of poop with their lips and poke it under their foot, and then they roll it into a ball and sleep on it. Not because they want to ponder it or anything. They're just sleepy.

We know this because there are slug and snail aficionados who lovingly observe their pets, and pooping is one of the only things they do. It is possible that slug owners have limited social connections.

Slugs have only the one foot, and yet they do not hop. They mosey at best. But although there is not that much to a slug, they're way more than ambulatory snot. Like us, they're mostly water. Unlike most of us, they have every sexual organ in the book. They can even have sex with themselves. You can too, but not as spectacularly, because you're not as well equipped, no matter what you say anonymously on the internet.

So I didn't know what slug poop looks like, but most people really aren't that good at poop ID. How many times have you heard a disgruntled roommate holler "Who left all this shit here?" See, they don't know. So it's helpful to get a good description. What does a gastropodcast look like? Is it tidy, or untoward? Well, slug poop has been described as "pretzel-shaped," but that's not helpful. Do they mean the curly kind? The long stick kind? The short fat peanut-butter-filled kind? We're left in the dark.

One of the other interesting things about slug poop is it's like a little commuter bus for nematodes. Nematodes like to eat the same things slugs eat--rotting vegetation--and that is, by its nature, transitory. Once the vegetation has been eaten up, where do the nematodes go? They're really little and can't make time on the road the way a good slug can. So they get eaten by the slug and carted to the next good meal and pop out the other end good as new.

Yes, they get pooped out. You'd be tired too if you spent much time in a slug gut, which has a grinder in it. Scientists still don't know if the traveling nematodes have any control over when the bus pulls out of the station, but they're eager to find out. Yes: there are scientists who are eager to discover whether tiny worms are driving the slug poop bus. And that is why I still love humans.

24 comments:

  1. Have you seen the large and bright yellow Banana Slugs that live in the redwoods? They are kind a pretty and I hope they do not eat baby birds.

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    1. Oh gosh yes! Those are our state mammals. No wait, that's the schnafflepuss.

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  2. I'm SOO disappointed --I STILL don't know how to ID slug poop. ONLY got a big chuckle out of all this.

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    1. If you roll a slug and there's poop under it, it might be slug poop. But it might also be dog poop. In fact, the last photo I put in the previous post was a slug on dog poop. So you're right--ID is tricky.

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  3. Replies
    1. there's always Mozart. Some humans do a lot of heavy lifting.

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    2. Fact. And they redeem the rest of us in a manner previously ascribed only to J.C.

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  4. Now that I've read this pair of posts, I can't ever un-see them. So I'll be alternating between tragedy (the poor baby birds) and comedy ("tiny worms driving the slug poop bus"). This is why I still love your blog.

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    1. Life is just a matter of balancing the baby birds and the worms. Every triumph is someone else's tragedy.

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  5. Stick with wombat poo - it's easy to recognise. Or whales.But you don't tend to find many of them in the back garden.
    Seriously, now. Have a little google for a video of mating Leopard Slugs. One day, a really sassy choreographer or aerialist is going to devise such a ballet...Oh, alright, here's one link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1dNIRL8EBEI

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    1. I am 100% certain I've already written a blog post about mating Leopard Slugs complete with video, several years back, but I can't find it now.

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  6. ...Aaaaand snail/slug slime is supposedly good for the skin. Those wacky Koreans have come up with a complete skin care line whose primary ingredient is snail slime. I kid you not: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Dbeauty&field-keywords=mizon

    Weird as it sounds, it's still not as weird as an old Japanese trick of using dried nightingale poop as a face mask. One wonders what possessed the first person to try these things to even think of smearing them on their face. Surely alcohol must have been involved.

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    1. Sun-screen is basically bird shit.Guanin, for polite folk

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    2. Okay, I started reading your comment, mimianderly, and I thought: wait. I know about this. The slug slime skin care regimen. And then you said dried nightingale poop, and I realized THAT'S what I was thinking about. A girl gets confused.

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  7. That is one honkin' big slug. It's a Godzilla slug. A Godzlugilla, maybe. Or maybe we can just call it Ewww. Poor thing. I know it can't help how it looks. I can't even concentrate on the slug poop because of the slug itself.

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    1. Really, once you've really taken in the slug, the slug poop is not that hard to take.

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  8. One of the funniest semi-scientific posts EVER!!

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  9. You know, I was planning on sausages for dinner, but after seeing that slug, I'm going with steak.
    Was interesting though, I've never thought about slug or snail poop before today either.

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    1. As long as we thought about it at some point, I think our karma is in good shape.

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  10. OOO!! I can help!! I just had a big slug held captive in my lab for 3 days so my students could look at it with microscopes, and it pooped aplenty during that time. Our slug was big, 4" long and brown with black dots & dashes; its poop was a lot of small (about 1/8" long) black pellets with kind-of pointy ends. It deposited them in kind of a half-hearted raft, stuck together with mucus. Too bad I set him free yesterday, or I could have included a photo!

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  11. Nice photo of your friend and mine.....

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