May 31, 2013
Giant Hot Pink Slugs Discovered Atop Unique Australian Peak
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Some of the earliest pillars of life on our ancient Earth can still be seen from time to time. Coral, for instance, takes many years to form and can give us a glimpse into the way things once were. The areas where coral grows have even recently been shown to have been dependent on volcanic activity in the earliest days of our planet.
Today, the discovery of yet another ancient wonder has been making the rounds across the web, and they´re as intensely pink as they are interesting.
High in the subalpine rocks of Australia lives Triboniophorus aff. graeffei, an extremely bright pink slug variety. These slugs live only in the regions around Mount Kaputar, an area which owes its existence to a volcanic eruption some 17 million years ago. The same area is also home to a more normal looking kind of slug with a horrifying diet. Aptly named, the so-called ℠cannibal snail´ lives amongst the pink slugs and feeds on other vegetarian snails living in the area.
''It's just one of those magical places, especially when you are up there on a cool, misty morning,'' said Michael Murphy, a national parks ranger in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald.
“It's a tiny island of alpine forest, hundreds of kilometers away from anything else like it. The slugs, for example, are buried in the leaf mould during the day, but sometimes at night they come out in their hundreds and feed off the mould and moss on the trees. They are amazing, unreal-looking creatures.''
Locals in the area have reported seeing the pink slugs for years, especially following rainy nights. Murphy told the Australian Broadcasting Company that on a good morning, there could be hundreds of these slugs slithering around.
"As bright pink as you can imagine, that's how pink they are,” Murphy added.
It was only recently that taxonomists confirmed the slugs as a new species and determined that they only live in Mount Kaputar because of that ancient eruption which created their new habitat. Long ago, this area of Australia was covered in rainforest. When the volcano erupted 17 million years ago, the slugs´ home was preserved at the top of the mountain while everything else underneath dried up. Other plants and vertebrates also have this millions-year-old eruption to thank for their unique home as well. The NSW Scientific Committee is now working to list this area of 10 kilometers by 10 kilometers (or about six miles for those of us who didn´t grow up with the metric system) as an “endangered ecological community” to preserve these creatures.
''These species have evolved from lowland ancestors and have been isolated in an otherwise snail-hostile environment as conditions began to dry,'' reads the Committee´s report.
The Cannibal snail also lives in this area and makes dinner out of other snails which share the ecosystem.
"We've actually got three species of cannibal snail on Mount Kaputar, and they're voracious little fellas," said Murphy. "They hunt around on the forest floor to pick up the slime trail of another snail, then hunt it down and gobble it up."