Browse Music

Slug is a common name that is normally applied to any gastropod mollusc that lacks a shell, has a very reduced shell, or has a small internal shell. This is in contrast to the common name snail, which is applied to gastropods that have coiled shells that are big enough to retract into.

Slugs belong to several different lineages that also include snails with shells. The shell-less condition has arisen many times independently during the evolutionary past, and thus the category "slug" is emphatically a polyphyletic one. The various groups of land slugs are not closely related, despite a superficial similarity in the overall body form.

As well as land slugs, there are also many marine slugs and even one freshwater slug species, but the common name "slug" is most frequently applied to air-breathing land slugs, while the marine forms are usually known as sea slugs. Land gastropods with a shell that is not quite vestigial, but is too small to retract into (like many in the family Urocyclidae), are known as semislugs.

Slugs, like all other gastropods, undergo torsion (a 180º twisting of the internal organs) during development. Internally, slug anatomy clearly shows the effects of this rotation, but externally the bodies of slugs appear rather symmetrical, except for the positioning of the pneumostome, which is on one side of the animal, normally the right hand side.

The soft, slimy bodies of slugs are prone to desiccation, so land-living slugs are confined to moist environments and must retreat to damp hiding places when the weather is dry.