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New Hot-Pink Slug Found in Australia

He’s big. He’s slimy. And he’s … neon pink?! Meet Triboniophorus aff. graeffeia new species of 8-inch-long (20-centimeter-long) slug that’s found only on one Australian mountain.

Scientists already knew that a bright-pink slug lived on Mount Kaputar (map), thinking it was a variety of the red triangle slug, a species common along the east coast of Australia. But new research shows that the colorful critter is actually its own species, said Australia’s National Parks and Wildlife Service ranger Michael Murphy.

pink slug picture

The pink slug is large for slugs, reaching about eight inches in length. Photograph courtesy Michael Murphy/NPWS

“Recent morphological and genetics work by a researcher working on this slug family—the Athorcophoridae—has indicated the Kaputar slugs are a unique species endemic to Mount Kaputar and the only representative of this family in inland Australia,” said Murphy, who’s been stationed on Mount Kaputar for 20 years. (Also see “Photos: Fiery Sea Slug Discovered, Lays Lacy Egg Case.”)

The pink slug had gone unstudied for so long because Australian slug and snail researchers—known as malacologists—are far outnumbered by their koala-investigating brethren, Murphy said.

Their research on the new slug will likely be submitted for publication soon, he added.

Meanwhile, though, the Australian government has moved to protect this rosy rarity and other unique species by designating their mountain home in New South Wales as an ”endangered ecological area.”

“Quirk of Evolution”

Tens of millions of years ago, Australia was part of a larger southern continent known as Gondwana, which included Australia, Papua New Guinea, India, and parts of Africa and South America. It was covered in rain forests similar to those of modern-day Papua New Guinea.

pink slug picture

A closeup of a pink slug. Photograph courtesy Michael Murphy/NPWS

A volcanic eruption 17 million years ago on Mount Kaputar kept a small, four-square-mile (ten-square-kilometer) area lush and wet even as much of the rest of Australia turned to desert. This changing environment marooned the plants and animals living on Mount Kaputar from their nearest neighbors for millions of years, making the area a unique haven for species such as the pink slug.

Because the pink slugs live in beds of red eucalyptus leaves, Murphy suspects their color could potentially serve as camouflage, helping the animals blend in to their leafy habitat.

“However, [the slugs] also spend a lot of their time high on tree trunks nowhere near fallen leaves, so it is possible that the color is just a quirk of evolution. I think if you are isolated on a remote mountaintop, you can pretty much be whatever color you like,” Murphy noted.

Slug Fan

Murphy added that the slugs play important roles in their ecosystems—for example, by recycling plant matter.

“I’m a big believer in invertebrates. People tend to focus on the cute and cuddly bird and mammal species like koalas. But these little behind-the-scenes invertebrates really drive whole ecosystems,” Murphy told the Australian Broadcasting Service.

pink slug picture

Pink slugs descend a tree on Mount Kaputar. Photograph courtesy Michael Murphy/NPWS

Besides the pink slug, researchers have also identified several other invertebrate species that are unique to Mount Kaputar, such as the Kaputar hairy snail and the Kaputar cannibal snail.

These finds, combined with Mount Kaputar’s uniqueness and the growing threat from global warming—temperatures just a degree or two warmer would destroy Kaputar’s flora and fauna—prompted the Australian government’s proposal to preserve Kaputar.

“They are a unique and colorful part of our natural heritage, and we should do everything we can to avoid causing their extinction,” Murphy said.

More slug news:

“Ninja” Slug Found

Flesh-Eating Slug Found in Wales

“Pancake” Sea Slug Among New Philippine Species

Comments

  1. Anni
    February 28, 5:37 am

    Coooooooooooool.

  2. Anni
    February 28, 5:36 am

    Wow. Like, seriously. I saw this website, and I was like ‘No way is this pink.’ Then I see it. ‘OMGG that thing is PINK!!!!’

  3. skye
    south cerney
    October 23, 2013, 4:22 pm

    wasat school looking what animals live on mountains and a hot pink slug was there second PIC so now o get to do a explanation text on the hot pink slug

  4. madison
    August 27, 2013, 12:01 pm

    I said to myself hmmmmm its not going to be pink I look and say OMG ITS PINK ITS REALLY PINK

  5. Hallu
    August 12, 2013, 8:36 pm

    My SASHiMi is ALiiiiiiiiiiiiiiVE !

  6. nob
    August 11, 2013, 6:23 pm

    Cool

  7. Martha
    Yardley, PA
    August 1, 2013, 6:59 pm

    My new favorite slug! My favorite color is fuschia. This little guy is more bright pink with neon overtones than fuschia, but that’s okay, he’s only a slug, that’s close enough.

  8. Cy Winskell
    Nara, Japan
    July 28, 2013, 12:24 am

    The pink slug is beautiful. My wife was wondering if it was poisonous. (Not that we would be eating them!) I had no idea one could read National Geographic articles on line for free. Good on you guys! Many, many thanks.

  9. Justin Higgins
    Seward, PA
    July 18, 2013, 10:56 am

    That is so cool! I need to show this to my friends!

  10. Vi
    July 11, 2013, 4:53 pm

    “However, [the slugs] also spend a lot of their time high on tree trunks nowhere near fallen leaves, so it is possible that the color is just a quirk of evolution. I think if you are isolated on a remote mountaintop, you can pretty much be whatever color you like,” Murphy noted.
    <<

    Normally my reaction to stuff like this is simply, "Hey, cool!" but that quote gives me pause. Now I'm wondering how many more vividly-colored critters there would be if species (yes, including us) weren't constantly killing each other off! What a sad little planet. :(

  11. Sophia Espanola
    Philippines
    July 7, 2013, 3:41 am

    pink slugs look like tuna or salmon flesh cut for some sushi

  12. Dr. Zoidberg
    Decapodia
    July 7, 2013, 12:18 am

    HOT PINK SLUG

  13. fnablo
    July 5, 2013, 1:44 am

    yuk

  14. nadia alexis
    Trinidad & Tobago
    July 4, 2013, 9:37 am

    logging in to Nat Geo takes me to a whole new world ….I love you guys

  15. lokesh madaiah
    Coorg, India
    July 3, 2013, 4:58 am

    Good info about the colorful creatures….
    Thanks!!!!

  16. Chris
    South Africa
    July 3, 2013, 4:27 am

    To Peter from Thailand, Stupid comment peter, creation is alway’s worth caring for, better to do something than to do nothing, we can’t realy tell if there will be a tomorrow and that’s why we should bother to care for what is, now.
    Disregard does not make the world a better place, get closer to God and you might get to see the light my friend.

  17. Afton
    Kirkland WA 98034
    July 2, 2013, 6:13 pm

    WOw sO cOoL…hOw

  18. Laurence
    Sydney
    July 2, 2013, 10:25 am

    Wow I didn’t realise there was such a miracle of nature in my own state this is awesome. I am also wondering if this pink slug is actually pink because it is poisonous or toxic. Is it like the poisonous red dart frog with its bright reds???

  19. Susan K.
    Denver, Colorado USA
    June 28, 2013, 3:33 pm

    Thank you for this story! I’m using it in my summer school program to prompt interest in Australia, writing and scientific schools of study. Maybe one of my students will want to become a malacologist one day!

  20. Mohammad Farooque Mohammad Haroon
    malegaon
    June 20, 2013, 11:26 pm

    Natoinal Geography is so valuable GK

  21. Kim Sue
    CA
    June 19, 2013, 4:39 pm

    Carlos Mendoza- The holes on the side are for breathing, kind of like a whale’s blowhole

  22. anselmo jimenez
    veracruz mexico
    June 15, 2013, 11:42 pm

    es la babosa mas grande que he visto en veracruz ay de 3 pulgadas y son cafe claro

  23. Me
    here
    June 14, 2013, 8:28 pm

    :0

  24. rebecca
    cannada
    June 14, 2013, 1:31 pm

    holly soo cool i really want to hold one and i love the color

  25. Lotta
    Finland
    June 14, 2013, 8:32 am

    Wau!
    I am a big fan of slugs, snails and their relatives. I have so far met only those found in my home country so this is very interesting story from outside Europe. Have the researchers thought that what if the strange color is a sign for birds and other predators to stay away, this fellow tastes horrible?? I know that Finnish slugs use thick and toxic slime to protect them. I hope to see more of these kind of news:)

  26. Anny kusuma Thailand
    Thailand
    June 14, 2013, 1:40 am

    I don’t like it can you send to me more nice photos .

  27. MS Schwartz
    June 13, 2013, 5:29 pm

    Beautiful Sweet Bugs and Creatures with tiny little legs… very nice pics.

    MS Schwartz, Mimi Sodova Schwartz

  28. MH shaon
    dhaka
    June 13, 2013, 10:52 am

    its rally great

  29. j and j
    cz
    June 13, 2013, 7:48 am

    yummi i am hungry

  30. Peter
    Thailand
    June 13, 2013, 6:41 am

    “These finds, combined with Mount Kaputar’s uniqueness and the growing threat from global warming—temperatures just a degree or two warmer would destroy Kaputar’s flora and fauna—prompted the Australian government’s proposal to preserve Kaputar.”

    If global warming (we are back to that from ‘climate change’ when it suits the narrative) is anywhere near the threat we are told it is, then that ecosystem is doomed anyway, so why bother?

  31. Neeladri
    Hyderabad
    June 13, 2013, 3:38 am

    The back of the slug kind of represnt a Pink leaf( If you observe carefully), Maybe helpful in camoflage, but as you said it doesn’t need much in its habitat.

  32. Svetoslav
    Bulgaria
    June 13, 2013, 2:39 am

    Maybe the reason is the radiation from Fukushima….

  33. sharon waud
    June 12, 2013, 10:15 pm

    Have seen this pink long slug in our yard about 7 years ago have not seen another one since..We live in Queensland

  34. Maria Eloisa
    Philippines
    June 12, 2013, 9:27 pm

    whatever color they are, they are still slimy and scary for me >.<

  35. Carlos Mendoza
    Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico
    June 12, 2013, 9:15 pm

    Amazing! Can anyone explain what is that hole on the right side of their back for?

  36. Becaashew
    Cola
    June 12, 2013, 8:50 pm

    Disgusting ! -_-

  37. Dave
    Pampanga
    June 12, 2013, 8:48 pm

    Exotic.

  38. Dasha
    June 12, 2013, 1:21 pm

    That is one hell of a sexy slug.

  39. Sheina
    Davao City, Philippines
    June 12, 2013, 8:21 am

    Wow! I want to hear more! Good luck on your study!

  40. agsa
    indonesia
    June 12, 2013, 2:15 am

    it’s a wonderful of usurer

  41. juliuslim
    malaysia
    June 11, 2013, 9:53 pm

    hmm…..for me i will call it a ” chilli snail ~ haha

  42. Hae-SUS
    New Zealand
    June 11, 2013, 7:47 pm

    Ewwy

  43. morgan brown
    tampa, FL
    June 11, 2013, 1:29 pm

    wow! I am doing a project on Australia. this will be a nice addition to it.

  44. SALEEM ALI MUHAMMED
    Karachi - Pakistan.
    June 11, 2013, 8:22 am

    Nice work.

  45. Jay Bow
    NYC
    June 11, 2013, 6:49 am

    That Kim Kardashian gets around…

  46. Ima Ryma
    June 11, 2013, 3:56 am

    On Australia’s Mount Kaputar
    A new slug species has been found,
    Exciting sluggers near and far
    To venture to that lush wet ground.
    The slugs favor life in a bed
    Of tasty eucalyptus leaves.
    But up a tree a slug will head,
    Leaving a slimy trail that weaves.
    Pairs of feelers for smell and sight,
    Hermaphroditic mollusc be,
    Seeking out mister and miss right
    To find a mate for he and she.

    A slug that is a bright hot pink -
    Not nature’s a nod and a wink!

  47. Dana
    June 11, 2013, 2:15 am

    don’t wanna sound gross… but is it just me or does it look like a tuna sashimi !?

  48. Janna Salgado
    June 10, 2013, 9:56 pm

    Nickitus Minajicus