Saturday, June 18, 2005

Slug fest -- part 2

Geoff urges me to forgive the unforgivable. And Anthony presents us with the spectacle of gastropods caught flagrante delicto, asking us, I suppose, to admire in this extraordinary act of copulation a kind of beauty.

Well, beauty is as beauty does, and my garden comes first. Even as I write, here are two slugs on the window by my desk, lusting (or so I suppose) for my tomato plants, which lie just out of reach across the glass.

I will concede this to the tribe of slugs. Once, just once, during my many summers on the Dingle Peninsula of County Kerry, on a rainy ascent of Mount Brandon, I came across the famous Kerry spotted slug, Geomalacus maculosus. It was far enough away from our garden that I could almost think it beautiful: a gray-black body with yellow spots, as long and fat as my index finger, a leopard among its kin.

This rare and elusive slug lives only in the extreme southwest of Ireland and the northwestern corner of the Iberian Peninsula in Spain and Portugal. It is part of the mysterious so-called Lusitanian flora and fauna of Ireland. An accidental blow-in from the sea? A hitchhiker on a Spanish galleon? A remnant of a once more continuous coastal distribution? Irish naturalists debate.