The name’s Maximus, Limax maximus…

…and he’s coming for you!

Meet the leopard slug. This shell-less gastropod is notorious for its peculiar mating rituals (but I’ll fully cover this topic in a separate blog post) and owes its vernacular name to the attractive and highly variable patterns of black spots, blotches or stripes that adorn its body. But similarities don’t end here: like a leopard, this slug is an agile, swift and elegant hunter.

When not indulging in a snack of deliciously decaying matter or excrements, this slug is in fact a keen predator, who hunts other slugs, snails and their eggs… a benefit for all gardeners who, in return, are rarely aware of (and thankful for) this service.

Reportedly, these slugs sometimes engage in cannibalistic habits too, although I haven’t personally witnessed any aggressive behaviour between the two specimens I keep and which have so far cohabited quite peacefully.

Assume the defensive stance!

Retreat!

Night crawler: extremely shy by daylight, Limax maximus is almost exclusively a nocturnal creature – more so than Arion species, which I encounter in the wild at any time of the day. Limax maximus, by contrast, will usually spend daytime hiding in a cool, damp place which will only leave after sunset.

Like Arion and other slug species, Limax maximus will react to a threat (real or perceived) by contracting its body, but unlike Arion, leopard slugs seem faster to retreat as soon as a chance arises.

Despite its binomial name suggesting otherwise, leopard slugs are not the biggest slugs of the world – or even of their native Europe, for the matter. The biggest European representative it’s a close relative, Limax cinereoniger.

King of the Alps

With his massive size and dignified demeanour (as long as you ignored the trail of thick slime he left behind), this impressive slug, possibly an adult Limax maximus, caught my eyes on my way up the mountain, at about 1,000 metres of elevation. On my way back, he was still there, pretty much in the same spot.

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