If you have ever seen bizarre aero acrobatics called gastropod sex, you are probably aware that slugs can pull down a kind of mucus bungee rope to keep them off the ground when their rocks are off. This type of mucus acts more like a bird, gnawing at only one end, but a recent study published in the Australian Ecology Journal details the discovery of a completely new use for mucus in this thin slitter.
Captured on camera by John Gold, author of a study at the School of Environmental and Life Sciences at the University of Newcastle in Australia, a slug shows a type of Mucus Bridge running alone at both ends. No, there was only one-way to get to the ground.
“Slugs usually pass through the bottom forming a thin film of mucus that always maintains contact with the surface,” Gold wrote in an email to IFLScience. “However, as it passes through the air, it is clear from my observations that some slugs have the ability to emit a single mucus line which they are then able to bend. To this extent, the slag is forming its own surface in the air, which can then use it for locomotion.”
This discovery accidentally fell into disrepair, as did Fountain and colleague Jose W. Valdez found a curious critic while conducting a field survey for endangered species of frogs. At first, he thought he would come across a spider hanging from silk, but on closer inspection, he realized it was a strip field slag (Lehmannia nyctelia). More interesting was that the mucous thread not affected by the weight of the mollusk sliding on the thin pole. If you look closely, you can see how stable the thread stays throughout the journey of the slag, it will not move as small stones are stuck under it. “I’m really interested in the decision-making process that makes this shaking form useful because of the more commonly displayed behavior of gliding over the surface in a film of mucus.” “We suggest creating a new surface in the air that acts as a vertical bridge that will allow for faster growth from height. It can have energy saving and pre-prediction benefits.”
Both are hopeful of subsequently observing the behavior under more controlled conditions as a way to determine the chemical properties of the mucus thread – which seems to be significantly stronger and more stable in supporting the vertical elimination of a slag without a break. Now if you forgive me I will turn off the Spiderman Spin Off series option.