Meet the positively peachy Leopard Slug, or in latin Limax maximus which means ‘Great Slug’!
These nocturnal spotty slimers are up to 25cm long, which makes them one of the largest land slugs in the world. Though it’s not their size that get these chaps into The Proceedings of the Ever so Strange… no… no… no.
Nor is it because they are one of the few carnivorous slugs, zipping around about four times faster than other slugs to gobble them up. It’s not because this slug has a shell… many slugs do hidden away in their body a tiny reminder of their evolutionary past. Or as Darwin exquisitely put it ‘rudimentary organs may be compared with the letters in a word, still retained in the spelling, but become useless in the pronunciation’.
Rather weird this slimy fellow is for many reasons, but there is one reason it has caused a right hullabaloo down at The Proceedings.
You see it turns out that the Leopard slug has a sex life that would make the Dutch blush. They court for hours, beginning by circling around each other slobbering all over their respective partner. After the hours of licky foreplay, the rather adventurous couple skedaddle up a tree, entwine around each other before lowering themselves down on a mucus string.
Once suspended in mid air…. actually while we’re here yes I do realize it does sound like I’ve hit the Claret pretty hard, but I swear this is all true… anyway… once in position, spinning around on their mucus string, a huge penis comes out of both of their heads, slugs of course being hermaphrodites.
(c) R Rosetta, Oregon State University
I know by now you think I’m actually having one of my opium flashbacks from my time in Kandahar, or even just had my fill of the laudanum I picked up in Harrods, still absolutely honestly this is what they do. They slide down their mucus string, and in mid air each with its enormous penis unsheathed from their head, their kilt-tilters tangle and wind around one another, much in the same way as the slugs themselves. The penises fan out into a rather smashing flower-like structure and they can at this stage exchange sperm. Sometimes the penises will become so entangled that apophallation is the only way to go… one will chew off the others penis. The de-tallywhackered slug will still be able to mate, just only as a lady. Usually, and indeed thankfully, it doesn’t always have to come to this. They will end mating by dropping down to the floor, and bimble off into the night to lay thousands of eggs.
So there it is Limax maximus… a really really great slug!