Credit: Public Domain
Leopard Slug Fact File
Wild 2-4 years
Captive 2-4 years
The Leopard Slug. A Globe Trotting Species of Slug!
The leopard slug has become one of the most widespread species of slug on Earth having been introduced to a number of sites across the world from their original range in Europe.
They are primarily herbivores feeding on fungi and plants but some carrion may also be consumed.
This species is best known for its unique mating ritual. The pair will suspend themselves from strands of mucus and perform their mating activities while suspended like this.
The species is considered stable and is likely increasing its population as they are introduced to new areas across the globe.
Read on to learn more about these intriguing invertebrates.
Leopard Slug Appearance
What does the Leopard Slug look like?
The leopard slug has an elongated body covered in a slimy mucus. Their skin is colored light brown and patterned with black spots and stripes. This pattern gives them their name. On the underside (known as the sole) they are completely white.
Unlike their relative the snails, slugs lack a visible shell. Instead a flat shell is present under a protective shield called the mantle.
At the front of the head is two pairs of tentacles. The top pair are used to sense light and work as the eyes of the snail. The other pair are closer to the ground and are used to smell.
An average leopard slug will grow to 20cm (7.9in) long.
Leopard Slug Adaptations
How does the Leopard Slug survive in its habitat?
Leopard slugs are reliant on moisture for the survival. A range of adaptations allow them to survive. They will huddle together to conserve moisture and prevent one another from drying out.
During dry periods they will enter a period known as estivation. During this time they will be inactive.
Leopard Slug Diet
What does the Leopard Slug eat?
Leopard slugs are omnivores. They feed on a range of fungi, plants and deceased animals. These animals have also been known to consume other slugs. Feces of some animals are also consumed. On occasion they are seen to eat other slugs and their eggs.
In human inhabited areas they have been known to eat food left out for pets.
Leopard Slug Range
Where do you find the Leopard Slug?
Leopard slugs have been introduced to every continent except Antarctica. Their native range was in Europe though the exact extent of their original range is unconfirmed.
At present they can be found in the following countries in Europe – Albania, Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guernsey, Hungary, Ireland, Isle of Man, Italy, Jersey, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and United Kingdom.
Introduced populations exist across much of Australia, New Zealand, Mozambique, South Africa, Canada, Mexico, United States of America, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, China, Japan and India.
Leopard Slug Habitat
Where can the Leopard Slug survive?
They make their home in forests in their native range. In their introduced range the leopard slugs are primarily found near human dwellings.
Credit: Public Domain
Leopard Slug Reproduction
How does the Leopard Slug produce its young?
Leopard slugs are hermaphrodites. Both individuals will have male and female reproductive organs and produce offspring after a successful mating.
They have an interesting mating technique. Pairs will climb together up a tree or on to a rock. They then lower themselves down on a mucus rope and intertwine their bodies. This movement is always done in an anti-clockwise direction.
Once their bodies are intertwined their penis will come out from the reproductive opening on the side of their head behind the antennae. They exchange sperm and then climb back up on to the tree with one eating the mucus on which they were suspended.
Sperm may be stored for months or years.
Their eggs will be laid in the soil in groups of up to 100.
The eggs will incubate for 20 days after which they hatch. Young slugs appear as a miniature version of their parents. At birth they are colored white with their pattern not starting to show till 1 week old.
Leopard Slug Behaviour
What does the Leopard Slug do during its day?
Leopard slugs are primarily active by night. They are often seen after rain. Their activity can be noticed due to the trails of slime which are left behind.
Credit: Public Domain
Predators and Threats
What stops the Leopard Slug from surviving and thriving?
Natural predators of the leopard slug include European hedgehogs, toads, snails, beetles and parasitic nematodes.
If threatened they will secrete a colorless liquid. They can also squirt blood through their breathing hole.
Leopard slugs will be killed by humans mainly to stop them eating plants in a yard.
Populations of this species are considered stable and may be increasing as they are introduced to new areas across the globe. At many sites this species is the most common species of slug.
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The leopard slug has spread to every continent except Antarctica.
Their scientific name 'Limax maximus' roughly translates as "largest keel back slug" despite this species not being the largest species of slug.
Credit: Public Domain
Henderson, A., Henderson, D. and Sinclair, J., 2012. Bugs Alive. Melbourne: Museum Victoria.
The Australian Museum. 2020. Leopard Slug. [online] Available at: <https://australian.museum/learn/animals/molluscs/leopard-slug/> [Accessed 11 September 2020].
Backyardbuddies.org.au. 2020. Leopard Slugs. [online] Available at: <https://www.backyardbuddies.org.au/backyard-buddies/leopard-slugs> [Accessed 11 September 2020].
Raupp, M. 2020. Bug Of The Week Is ‘Slug Of The Week’: Leopard Slug, Limax Maximus — Bug Of The Week. [online] Available at: <http://bugoftheweek.com/blog/2016/5/30/ug-of-the-week-is-slug-of-the-week-leopard-slug-ilimax-maximusi> [Accessed 11 September 2020].
Davison, A., 2020. Leopard Slugs Mate In The Most Beautifully Bizarre Way – And Nobody Knows Why. [online] The Conversation. Available at: <https://theconversation.com/leopard-slugs-mate-in-the-most-beautifully-bizarre-way-and-nobody-knows-why-128284> [Accessed 11 September 2020].
Rowson, B. 2017. Limax maximus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T170900A85577040. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-3.RLTS.T170900A85577040.en. Downloaded on 11 September 2020
Molluscs.at. 2022. Terrestrial Snails and Slugs. [online] Available at: <http://www.molluscs.at/gastropoda/terrestrial.html?/gastropoda/terrestrial/limax.html> [Accessed 4 January 2022]..
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