Only in Kerry….!!!
This is no ordinary slug…….if it’s found in Kerry…….then it has to be special.
Linda happened upon this little fellow on Saturday morning while hiking the Dingle Way . This is the now rare & protected Kerry Spotted Slug (Geomalacus maculosus).
What makes this guy so special
So – he’s just a slug – I hear you say………..
Not so – this brightly spotted and highly protected slug is one of our “Lusitanian” species – that is, it occurs in limited areas of southwest Ireland and northern Iberia without any record of the species anywhere else.
How lucky are we in Kerry to have this little fellow wandering out onto a rock on one of our hillsides while we enjoy hiking the Dingle Way.
Research suggests that they arrived in the post-glacial times with very few “founding individuals”. They probably arrived in “packing” for cargo – such as in bushes used to protect large pottery urns while in transit.
Where can I find them ?
They are a protected species especially in Killarney National Park. While their numbers are unknown they recently “spared” Kerry more road-works by their discovery on a planned by-pass road between Killarney and Macroom. Such is their importance that, eventually, hundreds of rocks & fallen trees were moved to another location in Kerry just to save these Spotted Slugs from tarmacadam. It also increased our National Debt by approx. 2 million euro – but they are worth it…..!!!! We’re still waiting on the by-pass to be built, although after Covid19 there is every chance it will take a lot longer to find the money to build it – so it gives more time to the Kerry Spotted Slug to multiply & protect itself further.
More recently, the Kerry Slug has been found in Connemara. It was most likely carried there by forestry machinery but it raises new issues of management & protection. With the extra warmth and rain of climate change, perhaps conifer forestry could offer these slugs a new habitat. In northern Spain and Portugal, rising heat and wildfires add to the threats that this species’ is having to cope with there, making it all the more important to look after them here in Kerry.
Why should we protect them ?
So “what good are they” and why should we look after these not very popular creatures? When touched, Kerry slugs roll up into a ball, like a hedgehog, something that is still unique among Ireland’s 32 other slug species. They can also stretch into a thin sliver of tissue, extending a nominal 8cm or so to twice that length or more. A Houdini-like ability to squeeze through tight spaces has been attested to by disappointed field scientists opening their containers at home.
Why do they like Kerry ?
The Kerry Slug loves the humidity and warmth that the south west of Ireland offers it and it lives on the many mosses and lichens found in this part of Ireland. Like snails, slugs are very important, providing food for all sorts of mammals, birds, slow worms, earthworms & insects and they are part of the natural balance. Upset that balance by removing them or losing them in our environment and we can do a lot of harm.
So next time you are out Hiking in Kerry keep a very watchful eye out for this treasured little fellow who normally only comes out at night to feed & hides by day.
You can discover this amazing little guy on the following tours