Garden studies: Slug sexMay 11, 2012 @ 7:09 am (Updated: 7:15 am - 5/11/12 )
My assignment from Gardening with Ciscoe host Ciscoe Morris this week was to find out whether there were more male or female slugs. Of course, it was a trick question. Slugs are hermaphrodites. They have both male and female reproductive organs.
And when they have sex, slugs impregnate each other. How that is done is truly astounding, and sometimes grotesque.
The great grey slug (or leopard slug), for instance, leaves a trail of slime to entice another slug. The two slugs then encircle one another, and intertwine for up to an hour, while a mucus is formed between them which in turn becomes a kind of rope from which the two slugs hang...in mid-air.
At this point, each slug extends a translucent penis from behind its head. These appendages themselves entwine and simultaneously fan out into a kind of see-through flower shape. The sperm is then transferred to each slug from the other.
This particular mating dance is unique to the leopard slug. But a much more common practice among slugs is even more bizarre. (You might want to be sitting down when you read this.) Many slugs, like the banana slug, have corkscrew penises which often get entangled in their partner's genitalia. After mating, the slugs sometimes have trouble disengaging themselves and resort to chewing off each other's penis. That's right, they chew their partner's penis off! (Sometimes they even do that to their own penis.) It's such a common practice, it even has a name - apophallation.
Slugs may not be praying mantises whose females often bite off the heads of their mates right after sex, but they come in a close second for sexual grotesqueries in nature.
By TOM TANGNEY, Seattle's Morning News
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