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snail Slugs

Identify It >   Invertebrate Section >   Slugs >

Scientific name:  Gastropoda

Size:  Up to 190mm long

Distribution:  Found throughout the UK

Months seen:  April to November

Life span:  Up to 12 months

Habitat:  Found under stones, under logs, in compost heaps, and buried in soil

Food:  Mostly dead plant material, sometimes green leaves, roots, and some species eat earthworms

Special features:  There are more than 30 different species of slug in the UK.  Although slugs are closely related to snails, most slugs do not have protective shells on the outside of their bodies.  Instead they have a leathery patch on their backs known as a 'mantle shield'.  There is a small round hole in this shield which is the slug's breathing pore or nostril.  Most slugs have two pairs of feelers on their head.  One pair are used like eyes for detecting light, while the lower pair are used for smell or possibly taste.

A few slugs, known as 'shelled slugs' have a tiny shell plate on their tail. They are rarely seen as they burrow in the soil, and only come out in damp weather at night.  Some have a very small shell inside their bodies.

One of the most frequently seen species is the Common Grey Field Slug (Deroceras reticulatum).  The colour of this species can vary from grey through to pink.  It feeds on, or just below the surface.  In wet weather it also feeds on leaves above the surface.

Another regularly seen species is the Garden Slug (Arion hortensis), so called because it is so frequently found in gardens.  It is black coloured with an orange-brown coloured sole, and grows to about 35mm.

The Great Grey Slug (Limax maximus) is also known as the Leopard Slug on account of the spots along its body.  It can grow to about 190mm in length.  The Leopard Slug feeds on mould growing on rotting logs.

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