In the latest in wacky science news, a species of huge, hot pink slug has been “discovered” in the sub-alpine area of Mount Kaputar National Park, in New South Wales, Australia.
Researchers actually believe the slugs have made their home in the park for millions of years — visitors have observed them there for years — but because the slugs are so rare, it has taken this long to officially identify and document them.
Scientifically known as Triboniophorus aff. Graeffei, the slugs — which can grow up to 8 inches long — typically only emerge after rainstorms and their existence was difficult to confirm. The park photo above is one of the few that captures the invertebrates in action. As far as researchers are aware, Mount Kaputar is the only place in the world where the slugs can be found.
‘It’s just one of those magical places, especially when you are up there on a cool, misty morning,” Michael Murphy, a national parks ranger who covers the area, told 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 mold during the day, but sometimes at night they come out in their hundreds and feed off the mold and moss on the trees. They are amazing, unreal-looking creatures.”
Scientists suspect the shocking pink color is actually camouflage, since the slugs tend to live in piles of eucalyptus leaf litter, which is red.
The pink slugs aren’t the only strange residents of Mount Kaputar. There are other genetically distinct creatures in the area, such as cannibalistic snails, which feed on vegetarian members of their species. The diversity has led the NSW Scientific Committee to make a preliminary judgment that the area be listed as an “‘endangered ecological community” to protect it from human intrusion.
According to the committee’s report, ”These species have evolved from lowland ancestors and have been isolated in an otherwise snail-hostile environment as conditions began to dry.” Thus a slight change in temperature or environment could be catastrophic to the strange wildlife in the area.
”I’m a big believer in invertebrates,” Murphy said. ”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.”
Plus, they’re super cool looking.