Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Slip Sliding Away

It is raining hard in Robertson tonight. After 6 weeks of grey skies, but relatively little rain, that is good news for the bush, and its little slippery creatures. That's why I have called this post "Slip Sliding Away".***

My friend Wendy, from Ulladulla has just posted on Facebook that the Frogs are singing their praises for the rain there, too. Good for them.

Last night I returned from a trip to Nerriga (between Nowra and Braidwood) and collected an important parcel from Sam and Charlie. Sam had told me several weeks ago about a Slug with a red mark on its back. I had heard of this mysterious creature before, but I had never seen one before. 

I did know that it was called the "Red Triangle Slug" (Triboniophorus graeffei) How infrequently one finds an accurate descriptive common name! Judging by the comments and other images in the Gallery on that linked page, my Slug is in its "retracted" state. 
It seems to be saying "Go Away - Leave me alone". I took it outside, and released it into dense cover, while it was raining, last night. Slugs love the rain, as it means they can move easily across otherwise drying surfaces.

The image is too bright, but it shows the marking really well
Red Triangle Slug

Triboniophorus graeffei - Red Triangle Slug

Triboniophorus graeffei - Red Triangle Slug

After posting these images on Facebook this afternoon, I got a message from a fellow Blogger Margaret that she had also posted photos of them. In fact she posted what she called a Red Triangle Slug Orgy, for indeed there are 4 of these creatures in a huddle, two pairs of paired up slugs. And, as they are hermaphroditic (see below), it is an orgy in every sense of the word.
  • "a form of sexual reproduction in which both partners can act as the "female" or "male". For example, the great majority of pulmonate snails, opisthobranch snails and slugs are hermaphrodites"  (Wikipedia)

Having been inspired by the rain to write more about "slippery, slimy things" I asked another fellow blogger Bronwen, who rejoices in the nom de plume "Snail", about this little slug I found late one afternoon, at Fitzroy Falls. 

To me, the surprising thing about this Slug was that I found it at about head-height in a prickly-leafed Tea-tree Bush (Leptospermum sp). That's not where I would ever expect to find a small Slug.

"Snail" responded: "Because it is not extended, I'm not 100% (sure) but it looks like a native cystopeltid. There are probably a whole bunch of species in the SE, but for the moment the S one is called Cystopelta astra".
A quick Google image search revealed a very close match indeed, from Mongarlowe, which is only about 120 Km south-west from here. Cystopelta astra - the "Snowy Mountains Humpback Slug" Thanks "Snail" (aren't experts great? Especially when they are generous with their information!)

The feature I noticed straight away with this Slug was the distinction between the thick body and the relatively fine, flat tail.
 That is quite clear in this next image.
Cystopelta astra - the "Snowy Mountains Humpback Slug"
This little slug seems to be widely distributed in south-eastern Australia, but not seemingly it has not often been photographed. 

The Morwell National Park website (as it often does) has a good page of information on a closely related species: It says: "This is a native species of slug that appears to be somewhere between a normal slug and a snail. The visceral mass, appears to be separated from the foot at the rear (this is the part permanently enclosed in the shell of a snail). The tail is flat......" (I have omitted comments which do not apply to my species.)

Cystopelta astra - the "Snowy Mountains Humpback Slug"

Cystopelta astra - the "Snowy Mountains Humpback Slug"
Well, as I conclude my blogging tonight, I note that the rain has now eased, and the Moths are starting to fly. The Moths of Robertson seem to love a good wet night.

I have has 41mm in the last 24 hours. That amount of rain is not high, by any means. It is simply worthy of comment as it is more rain than we have had in any day these last two months. So far this year, Robertson has "missed out" on the good rains which have fallen in Queensland and northern New South Wales (in Sydney even and certainly in points further north).

*** "Slip Sliding Away" Lyrics by Paul Simon - performed by Simon and Garfunkel "Concert in Central Park" 1981. 
Art had nearly lost his formerly pure, angelic singing voice at that stage, but it still was one of the all-time great live concerts. But, on that particular night, in Central Park,  he ought not have gone for the high notes in "Bridge over Troubled Water". Apart from that it was a great concert. And I merely saw it on TV (and had the tape, then the CD).


Snail said...

Adrian Daniell did his PhD on the systematics of this group back in the early 1990s. I think he found that there were a number of cryptic species in SE NSW, which are yet to be described.

We also get Triboniophorus here. They graze on the algae growing over the recycling bins! Our ones are greyish, whereas the ones on Mt Bellenden Ker are orange. Fortunately, someone is working on the taxonomy of Triboniophorus, so we should know more about them soon(ish). (I'm convinced there are at least two species in N NSW/SE Qld.)

Denis Wilson said...

Thanks for your help, Bronwen in getting an ID for Cystopelta astra.
I would never have got even close without it. The photo in "Terrestrial Slugs Web" is by John Stanisic.
Who would ever have thought that there was such a Web facility?
There is a bright red form of Triboniophorus which has been photographed (Google Image Search).
That is pretty remarkable.

Boobook said...

Very interesting blog Denis. Good to see you're out and about.

Cheers (from another S & G fan)

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Boobook.
Nice to hear from you.
Should I become a Music reviewer?
I think not.
But I thought that it would be easy enough to post music links, and it was.
Bird calls not so readily available, unfortunately - well some, but few sources that I know of.
Glad you enjoyed the Slippery things.
I hope to have a "slider" tonight.

Flabmeister said...


Not sure if my original comment got through. If so please delete this one.

The Red Triangle slug is very wierd looking.

WRT to bird song recordings Avibase is very good. It has links at the species level to Xenocanto covering a range of calls of most Australian birds plus many overseas ones.


Joy Window said...

We have red triangle slugs in northern NSW, too. A bit of a "d'oh" moment when I looked it up on the net and saw the common name.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Joy
Thanks - I know what you mean about the "D'oh! moment".
If only other names were as obvious.
My least favourite "common name" is Red-kneed Dotterel.
Only obvious in the hand, probably after the original collector had just shot his first specimen!

Anonymous said...

Does anybody know what the red stuff they secreet is? we had 2 of these munching on the alge growing on some of the trees, after disturbing them, they started crawling away, leaving a trail of red goo after them

anybody know what it is?

Denis Wilson said...

Well I only know they leave a trail of slime. Silvery slime left behind by my one.
Anyone else?