Archive for April, 2016

Now, I appreciate the title is alarmist.

So let me be clear.

The creature we’re going to talk about today could be a perfectly normal slug. Or, alternatively, it could be some horror from a dark, festering corner of the Universe, sent to punish Man for his sins.

There is no explicit evidence that these coldly intelligent and utterly foul organisms, lacking all emotions save for hate, seeped down from the stars and are now working to scour humanity from the globe in a storm of blood and horror, before raising black and hideous temples to their forsaken and unknowable Gods. It would be speculation, not fact, to state that these organisms have already infiltrated our society, and are working, even as you read these very words, to not just destroy but expunge everything that we hold dear, and keep us alive only so that we might experience the utter despair of seeing our own precious world usurped by these loathsome creatures and knowing that all resistance is fruitless. Some scientists might even say there is currently not enough information to decide, one way or the other, whether these are simple slugs or, instead, manifestations in our reality of ancient and loathsome minds, harking from some malignant orb shrouded in misery and rotting with the forbidden relics of long dead yet still conscious alien Gods, the mere names of which would send any mortal man fleeing into the sanctuary of madness.

 

So, let’s review the evidence, for ourselves…before it is too late.

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Hopefully, lightning flashed just as you read those words. (Image from blogs.murdoch.edu.au)

Slugs, as you might know, are gastropods, which themselves are found within the phylum mollusca. Molluscs are, morphologically, one of the most diverse phyla, and include everything from slugs and snails, to squid, octopods [NOT Octopi – Ed.] and chitons.

Gastropods themselves consist of over 60,000 species, and are found in both marine and terrestrial environments. (We’ve already covered the lethally poisonous cone snails). The ghost slug, by contrast, is wholly terrestrial.

Both, however, are slightly odd, in that they are both carnivorous.

 

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And neither paritucarly look like it, either. (Image via Markgtelfer.co.uk)

The Ghost Slug’s formal name is Selenochlamys ysbryda and is one of only two animals in its genus, the other being S. pallida. ‘Ysbryda‘ is, in fact, slightly appropriate, as it is Welsh for ‘ghost’ – which, considering its nocturnal habit and its ghostly white colour, is somewhat appropriate. Additionally, it was only formally described in 2008 by biologists. Previously, one had been caught in 2003, but the discovers failed to fully recognise the significance of their find and, thinking it was a juvenile, attempted to raise it to maturity until, in their own words “It died two months later [and] the gut and gonad had everted through the anus, discouraging us from further investigation”, which is frankly a good reason to stop investigating something. This specimen was found in an actual, abandoned graveyard. The authors did not specify whether they found evidence of an unholy ritual performed by deluded cultists unaware of the true nature of what they were calling up.

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The exact type of slug you’d expect to see in a graveyard. (Image from BBC)

Eyeless, little is actually known about these slugs, because they are subterranean and so their appearances on the surface might be a rather rare occurrence, so for all you know there could be millions of them burrowing underneath your house at this very moment.

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Logically, if anything, it should make an animal less creepy. But no eyes actually just makes it worse. (Image from museumwales.ac.uk) 

What we do know is that they are predators. Their radula (a ribbon like structure, lined with ‘teeth’, found in most molluscs and functioning as a combination of tongue and tooth) are much sharper than those of herbivorous slugs, enabling them to quickly eat earthworms, rapidly rasping away at their flesh. So far as I can tell, little is known of how they reproduce. (Most slugs are hermaphrodites, and during mating both slugs will fertilise the other. If you wish to learn more about slug reproduction – and really, who am I to judge? – just remember it does involve phrases like ‘intertwined penises’ and ‘external sperm transfer’ and, in some slugs, such as the banana slug, ‘apophallation’ – otherwise known as ‘biting off the penis because it got stuck in the other slug’.)

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“I hate my job” – the NSA agent who monitors this blog. (Image from Infinitespider.com)

Despite being found in Wales, its thought that the species originated in the Crimea, as several specimens have been found there. Additionally, specimens of S. pallida are found in the relatively nearby Caucasus mountains, suggesting that the slugs originated/fell to Earth here and were then introduced to Wales, either accidentally or as part as some malevolent plan by a sinister aristocrat who has no idea of the true nature of his paymasters. Given our admittedly highly prejudiced lack of knowledge about geography, we do feel that, if anything alien is to arrive on Earth, arriving in the Caucasus mountains, rather than, say, Blackpool, does show a sense of the theatrical we can admire.

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In fairness, even  abominations have standards