SLUGS ARE GROSS! (Or are they?)
Grossed out by slugs? Not so fast!
On that same trip to Cape Cod, I found this cool slug hanging out on a fungus. That's right. I said cool slug. Not creepy slug. Not gross slug. But I might have said slimy slug. Because let's face it: slugs are really slimy.
So, here's my cool slug. It's just doing its thing, moving slowly through the forest, eating things. A slug's cuisine of choice is anything that's rotting away.
And, on one level, that's what slugs do: they eat things (so do we, by the way!). In the food chain, slugs help to clear out the forest. They are rotting forest mini-vacuum cleaners. While you might not want to eat a slug, they are also apparently yummy to birds and toads. So, they eat and are eaten! In the greater scheme of things, that's how our world works: there's a food chain and slugs are part of it.
But, slugs are also cousins to oysters, clams and octopuses because they are all part of the mollusc species! (Some of my favorite sea creatures here at the Fins Down blog!). So, don't be so fast to dismiss them.
One reason lots of people think slugs are gross is because they are slimy. Let's be honest: we all hate slimy things. Thinking about petting a slug and ending up with mucus all over your hand isn't very appealing. I mean, usually your mom or dad tells you to make sure you blow your nose, throw out the tissue, and wash your hands to get rid of mucus and germs, right?
But, slug slime is special. Think of it as a kind of superpower mucus.
It allows them to move over uneven surfaces, like tree bark, with no problems. It's kind of like a sticky magic carpet. That slime also protects them from bacteria. But, here's the coolest thing for us: scientists studied slug slime, the trail of goo that snails leave behind when they walk. They were interested in the sticky stuff and figuring out how it works. And, guess what? Slug slime became the inspiration for a new kind of bandaid, called a hydrogel, that is used in surgery to help seal incisions (cuts). Surgeons aren't using slug slime itself--they were just inspired by it.
The next time you need a bandaid, just think: that slimy slug helped to invent a whole new kind of bandaid! What else might be hidden in those gooey wonders? (I still don't recommend petting them, however.)