Photos by urbpan. Location, on a European beech tree, in the Riverway, Boston.
Urban species #230: Leopard Slug Limax maximus
It's no banana slug, but the leopard slug is an impressive animal nonetheless. Stretching out thin to nearly six inches long, it is easily the largest terrestrial mollusk found in eastern North America. It's bold patterns and large size make it a striking and beautiful creature even, one is hopeful, to those who generally dislike invertebrates. Leopard slugs are common in yards and gardens in the city, but rare even a short distance into the suburbs. This seems counterintuitive, but the leopard slug is an introduced species, familiar to Europeans as the spotted garden slug. Apparently it has adapted well to living alongside humans and their buildings, but for some reason can not thrive in the American countryside.
Leopard slugs feed at night, on a variety of different substances. They consume fungi, as well as decomposing and living plants. Gardeners who are bothered by slugs should be happy that the leopard slug preys on other slugs. They also will eat pet food left outside, and will feed on animal droppings and carrion. Their omnivorous habits have probably helped suit them to an urban existence. Besides Europe and North America, they are found throughout urban Australia and South Africa. Like European woodlice, they have been brought anywhere European soil has been brought.
They are hermaphrodites, and two individuals fertilize one another in a mating pendulum, entwirled about one another in a slimy embrace. Unfortunately this ritual occurs in the wee hours of the night, and few observers get the privilege of witnessing it.
Those interested in the singular and fascinating mating habits of Limax maximus are encouraged to follow this link.
This image of leopard slugs mating comes from the good people at www.whatsthatbug.com.
In case it comes up again, American paper currency is exactly 6 inches long (15.24 cm).