Observation of the Week, 11/25/17



Our Observation of the Week is this Athoracophorus bitentaculatus leaf-veined slug, seen in New Zealand by @shaun-lee!

An enthusiast who “works on a variety of environmental restoration and education projects” Shaun Lee says his “favourite thing to do is photograph the New Zealand bush at night.”

At night our kiwi and weta come out and the bush really comes alive. In New Zealand we don't really have venomous spiders, there are no snakes or big things with teeth so you can feel quite safe pushing through undergrowth at night.

“[And] gastropods,” says Shaun, “are pretty easy to photograph as they don't scuttle away from my headlamp.” He usually tries to wait until they put their eye stalks back out before photographing them, “but this time I did not which has emphasised the camouflage skills of the slug. I like how you can clearly see the breathing holes on leaf-veined slugs.”

While New Zealand has its share of introduced slugs, all native ones are leaf-veined slugs, members of the family Athoracophoridae. The characteristic leaf-veined patterns on their backs are believed to be for camouflage, and as Shaun points out, the breathing hole is easily seen on their backs. Unlike other slugs, leaf-veined slugs are not considered to be agricultural pests, as they eat mainly algae and fungi. They're nocturnal, but Shaun says they're pretty easy to find - this one was found “only 20 minutes drive from the centre of New Zealand’s biggest city.” In addition to New Zealand, they range through other islands in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, including New Guinea, Melaneasia, and eastern Australia.

Being an island, New Zealand’s ecosystem is quite fragile, and introduced species have significantly altered it, and continue to do so. Shaun (pictured above) says “the iNaturalist platform is perfect for documenting the spread of invasive species so we can better understand how we are changing our environment. I am very grateful to all the researchers who put so much time into iNaturalist, identifying all the weird things I find and teaching me about the world I live in.”

- by Tony Iwane


- One of Shaun’s projects is mostnewzealand.com. Check it out, there’s some cool info and photos/footage of New Zealand’s wildlife.

- Here are the thirteen faved leaf-veined slug observations on iNat. They are stunning creatures.

- New Zealand entomologist and photographer Gil Wizen wrote a nice blog post about leaf-veined slugs.

Posted by tiwane tiwane, November 26, 2017 01:48 AM

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