The Pacific coast of North America is well known for its unique ecology; temperate rainforests, redwood and sequoia trees, sea otters, gray whales and other marine mammals, and the various Pacific salmon of the Oncorhynchus genus. But there are more humble creatures that call that region home. Many of which are unknown to the world at large but quite famous to the local humans that live alongside them. Enter the aptly named banana slug, one of several slugs in the Ariolimax genus, and some of the largest slug species in the world. I’ve been aware of the banana slug since first viewing A Multitude of Mollusks, an episode of Marty Stouffer’s Wild America that first aired in 1989. In that program the banana slug is seen defending itself from a garter snake by producing a prodigious amount of excess slime, gumming up the mouth of the snake. Years later my sister, who lives in Oregon, would send me this pair of stretchy, sticky banana slug toys.
Although there are several species of banana slug I believe these toys represent the Pacific banana slug (Ariolimax columbianus), because of the dark markings on their bodies. Anatomically the toys are obviously slugs but they lack a lot of key features. The eye stalks are present but the smaller, lower tentacles are missing. Instead of a radula the toys appear to have a smiling mouth instead, although it is hard to discern. The mantle is missing completely, as well as the various openings on and around it but those aren’t always obvious anyway. There is a skirt around the foot with grooves both on the skirt and under the body that help the toy stick.
These toys are advertised as being sticky and thus being able to “stick anywhere”. Naturally after a number of years in my possession they have lost some of their stickiness. They are indeed still sticky but are unable to attach to very much, although plenty of dust and hair sticks to them.
As mentioned, banana slugs are large. The Pacific banana slug is the largest slug species native to North America and considered to be the second largest in the world, outsized only by Limax cinereoniger. The Pacific banana slug can reach 9.8” (25cm) in length. These toys are less than half that size at 3.5” (8.89cm). I don’t see why they didn’t just make them life sized. I would love to acquire a life sized banana slug if one were ever produced.
Really these toys are meant to be novelty items, the sort of thing you might find in a gift shop or toy store in the Pacific Northwest. They’re a fun souvenir and although not completely accurate or extraordinary they’re still worth seeking out, there just aren’t enough toy mollusks out there and toys of specific slug species are virtually non-existent. I’m having difficulty finding these slugs online but Archie McPhee’s latex finger slug appears to be a more realistic alternative, I might have to pick one up.