The bright-pink Mount Kaputar slug, found only on the mountain itself, has been spotted by rangers after bushfires ravaged much of its habitat.
The Triboniophorus aff. Graeffei is a giant species of air-breathing land slug notable for its unique bright pink colouring. The slugs have only been found at an altitude of around 1,500 metres at the top of Mount Kaputar, an extinct volcano in northern New South Wales near Narrabri. Home to an additional 20 species of snails and slugs not found elsewhere in the world, the area was identified as the first endangered ecological community in Australia.
After bushfires burnt in the Mount Kaputar National Park for a period of more than six weeks between October and December 2019, conservationists were concerned the species might have been wiped out. While around 90% of the population is believed to have perished, National Parks and Wildlife Service rangers were thrilled to spot around 60 of the hot pink slugs following rainfall in late January.
Experts believe the fluorescent slugs must have retreated into rock crevices during the fires to survive the heat and are now emerging to take advantage of newly growing moss and fungi following the rain. Australian Museum malacologist Frank Köhler told The Guardian that despite the devastation of the fires, the population of Mount Kaputar slug should rebound quickly, which is lucky given their importance to the local ecosystem.
“[Snails and slugs] are the foundation of all our ecosystems. They are the foundation food source for many mammals and birds,” Köhler said.
- If you’re a gardener, you likely aren’t the biggest fans of slugs. But these animals are crucial parts of a healthy ecosystem and it’s not hard to coexist. Check out this guide to getting along with slugs from BBC Wildlife.
- Give slugs and other invertebrates a potential home by planting a native tree as part of National Tree Day 2020.
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