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Snails & Slugs, Oh My!

It’s nearing the end of summertime on Georgian Bay, and by now  you’ve probably run into a couple of snails and slugs. A lot of people  think their slimy bodies are gross, but they are actually amazing little creatures!

Slugs and snails can be found almost everywhere in the world. There are over 40,000 different species of snails and slugs in the world. They can live on land or in water. You can even spot some in Georgian Bay, and the area’s lakes!

by Wolfgang Hasselmann on Unsplash
by Wolfgang Hasselmann on Unsplash

Aren’t slugs just snails without shells?

No! While slugs and snails look very similar, they are not the same. They look similar because they are closely related. They both come from a group of animals called gastropods. There are many things that make them different, but the biggest difference is their shell. Slugs either have no shell or have little shells too small to fit into. Snails grow their own shell, which they can fit all the way into to hide from predators. Snails will use their shells for protection, whereas slugs like to hide from danger in small places, like under rocks and logs.

If snails and slugs don’t have legs, how do they move?

Snails and slugs move using a muscle on the bottom of their body called a foot. They move this muscle in a wave-like motion to push them forward. You might have also noticed that snails and slugs leave a slimy trail behind them wherever they go. This slimy stuff is called mucus. They create mucus so that rough surfaces will be smoother and easier for them to slide over. These slimy animals also use their sticky mucus to help them climb up trees and walls.

What is up with the tentacles?

If you look closely at a slug or snail, you will likely see four tentacles on its head. There are two long ones which have little eyes on the end. They use these tentacles to see their surroundings. They also have two smaller tentacles which they use to smell and sense vibrations. Their tentacles can  be retracted when they sense danger! Snails found in water only have two tentacles, which they use to feel and smell the things around them. Aquatic snails actually have eyes right on their face.

Where can I find a snail or slug?

Slugs and snails live all over the world, but you can find them right here in the biosphere! You can find slugs and snails under tall grass, rocks, or leaves! You will find lots of snails and slugs in the summer, but they are a little harder to find in the winter. This is because they hibernate in the winter. Snails and slugs might dig underground or hide in bark. Then they sleep all winter!

The Western Dusky Slug

One of the most common slugs in the Georgian Bay area is the western dusky slug. The western dusty slug can be yellow, orange, or brown, and has no shell. This slug also has yellow or orange mucus. The western dusty slug prefers to live in forest areas but can be found in grassy areas or gardens too. These slugs are originally from Europe, but were brought to Canada  in the 1960’s. The western dusty slug has since become very successful and common in Canada. 

Photo by ERROR 420 📷 on Unsplash
“Dusky Arion slug” by Matt Tillett is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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