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The families of European land slugs
or
Three ways to reduce your calcium dependence
By
Stella M. Turk MBE

European land slug

The family Testacellidae

Testacella is very elongate
And its shell is a tiny plate,
External, so one cannot fail
To see it on the tip of the ‘tail’.
It is rather uncommon and not easily found
As it lives partially buried safe underground
Where it hunts and finds all it needs -
The slugs and worms on which it feeds.

Two of the three species in this family, two
have been found in Cornwall.

Families Limacidae, Milacidae and Agriolimacidae

There are species in the genus Limax
And others in Agriolimax and Milax.
Their shells are very small and white
Tucked under the mantle so out of sight
The milacids feed on root crops underground
Making holes in our carrots before being found.
Limax flavus can live with a human
But L. cinereoniger shuns us if it can
As does L. marginatus that lives on trees
In crevices in which it can easily squeeze
Any rain and soft mists are sufficient to rouse
It to seek the lichens on which it can browse.

About 10 of the 14 British species in these three
Families live in Cornwall

The family Arionidae

The shell is reduced to some granules of lime
So its defence is abundance of sticky ‘slime’
These include the slugs we most often see
As even in daytime some* are ‘on the spree’.
They may be red, black or yellow, and as large as a mouse
Frequenting gardens and roadsides, but not in the house
They eat greens but also scavenge dog pooh
So don’t let your dog use the verge as a loo.
For it may be a link in a complex food chain
That could involve death, and certainly pain.

Of a dozen British species, 11 live in Cornwall.


Authors notes

*The species to which I refer in this cautionary verse, are the Arion ater complex and Arion lusitanicus. Their connection with dogs is through a nematode parasite (Angiostrongylus vasorim) that needs an intermediate host.

Stella M Turk MBE

September 2008