Banana Slug, Ariolimax columbines, is a mollusk that has lived in The Sea Ranch since the Pleistocene epoch, millions of years ago. He is a simple critter that has an important job to do and does it very reliably. He eats dead leaves, animal droppings, dead plant material, and other detritus, thus helping return nutrients to the soil humus that supports the forest and all of its plants. He particularly likes mushrooms and is an important vehicle by which their spores are spread. Sometimes he wanders into one of our local gardens and eats the wrong plant or slimes one of our windows. That kind of thing makes him generally unpopular with local home owners, but the kids are usually fascinated by him. (Some children will treasure Banana Slug over all of their other discoveries during their Sea Ranch trip.)

Banana Slug

We are told that he is the second largest air breathing terrestrial slug in the world and that he got his name because he is usually yellow in color. Here in the Ranch, he is usually kind of brownish (perhaps the color of a very ripe banana). You will most often find him in the forest minding his own business. He moves very slowly on long rows of tiny feet like a centipede. He has two sets of tentacles that are probing out in front of him. The top set sense light and movement and the bottom set sense chemicals. If he feels threatened he pulls them back in and basically hopes that the threat will go away. If it is Raccoon or one of the other small forest animals he is probably out of luck, but if it is one of us humans, we usually step out of the way, and move on.

He needs moisture to keep his body functioning correctly and is covered in a slimy substance that helps him maintain himself. The slime is repellent to us, but keeps him cool and attracts others of his kind for purposes of mating. For some humans the unique characteristics of Banana Slug makes him attractive. The University of California, Santa Cruz, has adopted Banana Slug as their mascot. (The administration wanted Sea Lion, but the student body insisted on Banana Slug. It took them several years to win the argument and Banana Slug is grateful for their perseverance.)

The scientists classify Banana Slug as a deteriorative,
but if we ever make the movie we are going to call him Decomposer.