Overview

Distribution

The Banana Slug can be found along the Pacific Coast. Its populations reach from as far north as Alaska to as far South as California. The heaviest concentration of the Banana Slug is found in California. (Branson 1996, Hill 1997)

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occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Global Range: (200,000-2,500,000 square km (about 80,000-1,000,000 square miles)) Recent molecular evidence suggests that A. columbianus, as defined by Mead (1943) and Pilsbry (1948), is not monophyletic but rather that populations of Ariolimax north of Mendocino Co., California (the true A. columbianus, since the species was described from specimens collected near the Columbia River) are evolutionarily distinct from the more southern populations (Leonard et al., 2005; Pearse et al., 2005). The name Ariolimax buttoni (Pilsbry and Vanatta, 1896) has been revived to designate the southern clades formerly included in A. columbianus (see Leonard et al., 2007). As such, A. columbianus occurs from the area north of Mendocino Co., California, north to southeastern Alaska (Pilsbry, 1948; Roth and Sadeghian, 2003; Leonard et al., 2007).

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Physical Description

Morphology

The Banana Slug is the second largest slug. It can reach up to a length of 25 cm. The majority of Banana Slugs can easily be identified by their resemblence to a banana. They have yellow bodies with brown spots. Some Banana Slugs can be found with green, brown, or white bodies. The coloration of Banana slugs can change accordingly with their diet and the amount of moisture in their environment. The bodies of Banana Slugs have a muscular foot for locomotion. They also posses a hump on their back and a mantle. Banana Slugs have lungs that open to the outside through a pneumostone for respiration located on the right side of their mantle. Banana Slugs have two pairs of tentacles. The larger of the two pairs of tentacles are used to sense the brightness of light. The second pair are used to sense smells. The Banana Slug is able to retract both pairs of tentacles to protect them from the surrounding environment. Banana Slugs are covered with a slime that serves many purposes. (Branson 1996, Hill 1997, Murphy 1967, Nichols and Cooke 1979)

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; bilateral symmetry

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Ecology

Habitat

Banana Slugs live in the floors of forests in the Pacific Northwest. Because they respire through their skin, Banana Slugs require a moist environment to live. Banana Slugs serve as decomposers in forests. They break down plant materials. They also spread seeds and spores while eating. They spend much of their time during the day in moist, dark areas like under logs or other forest debris. (Branson 1996, Hill 1997)

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Habitat Type: Terrestrial

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Migration

Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

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Trophic Strategy

Banana Slugs are herbivores. They eat leaves, dead plant materials, fungi, and animal droppings. Banana Slugs favor mushrooms over other foods. Banana Slugs eat their food using their radula. A radula is made up of many rows of teeth used for grinding up food particles. (Branson 1996, Hill 1997, Grzimek 1972)

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Life History and Behavior

Reproduction

Like most slugs, the Banana Slug is hermaphroditic. This means that one slug has both male and female reproductive organs. Although they are capable of self fertilization, they more often cross mate. When a slug is ready to mate, it leaves behind a chemical in its slime to signal potential mates. Before mating, the slugs will eat each others slime. Mating usually occurs at night. The slugs exchange sperm that fertilize the eggs internally. The Banana Slug gnaws off its penis when disengaging from sex. Slugs are capable of storing the sperm that they have recieved for many weeks to fertilize eggs that are not yet mature at the time of mating. Banana Slugs produce up to twenty translucent eggs. The fertilized eggs are laid under logs or in leaves. The parent slugs play no role in the lives of their offsprings after laying the eggs. (Branson 1996, Hill 1997, Murphy 1967)

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Ariolimax columbianus

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 3
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Reasons: This species is widespread from central California to southern Alaska.

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Banana slugs are sometimes viewed as pests by gardeners when they eat garden plants and flowers.

Negative Impacts: household pest

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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Recent unpublished evidence suggests Ariolimax columbianus is not monophyletic but rather that populations north of Mendocino Co., California (= Ariolimax columbianus) are evolutionarily distinct from the more southern populations (potentially attributable to the name Ariolimax buttoni (Pilsbry and Vanatta, 1896)) (see Leonard et al., 2007). The genus Ariolimax Mörch, 1860 is currently broken into 5 taxa in 2 subgenera based on penis morphology. In A. (Ariolimax), sensu stricto, A. (A.) columbianus columbianus (Gould, 1851) ranges from central California to southeast Alaska while A. (A.) c. stramineus Hemphill, 1891 is found on the coast of south-central California. In A. (Meadarion) Pilsbry, 1948. A. (M.) dolichophallus Mead, 1943, A. (M.) californicus californicus Cooper, 1872, and A. (M.) c. brachyphallus Mead 1943 are known from different parts of the San Francisco Peninsula. Sequence data from 3 mitochondrial and 2 nuclear genes (unpublished but see Pearse et al., 2007) reveal an unresolved polytomy of 5 distinct clades- but not the original 5. There are 2 clades within A. (A.) c. columbianus, for which Pearse et al. (2007) propose species rank: A. columbianus ranging from northwest California to southeast Alaska and A. buttoni (Pilsbry and Vanatta, 1896) in north-central California. A. stramineus forms a third species-clade, and a fourth distinct clade is an undescribed species on Mount Palomar, San Diego County, California. The fifth clade (Meadarion) comprises at least 4 subclades, 3 already named as species or subspecies. Pearse et al. (2007) propose treating each as a species distinguished by morphology and sexual behavior: A. californicus and A. dolichophallus are found mainly in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties, respectively, while A. brachyphallus has a disjunct distribution on the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula, the Monterey Peninsula in Monterey County, and Cambria in San Luis Obispo County. A fourth subclade corresponds to an undescribed species found on Fremont Peak, San Benito County. More in-depth analyses are needed to resolve the relationship among these 8 species, and whether the subgenus Ariolimax is paraphyletic with respect to Meadarion.

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