Yesterday hiking I saw an inordinate number of slugs on the path. I always see one or two, but the rainy weather created some slick pavement that made their day all the easier.
On sunny days, they are almost comical, and their evolutionary strategy seems laughable. ‘Okay’ thinks the slug. ‘I’m going to have this soft mushy body, with no arms or legs. To get around, I’ll simply hack up a puddle of mucus, over which I will gradually drag myself.’ Repeat. Well, it’s hardly a strategy that would pass in an ordered, planned universe, but it is obviously effective, based on the shear number of slugs. Based on the number I saw out in the open, I’d unscientifically estimate there must be at least one slug for every square meter of German earth.
The second defect in their evolutionary strategy became obvious when I noticed what most of the slugs seemed to be eating; other dead slugs that had been squished by bicyclists and joggers. So the slug basically spends his life, slowly dragging himself over a puddle of his own vomit, hoping he’ll strike the jackpot and find a dead friend, to suck him up too. What doesn’t occur (in his admittedly puny) slug brain is that the cause of this bonanza is something that may very well undo him next. OK, slugs are stupid.
But the last part of slug’s evolutionary strategy maybe has something going for it. A general slug compared with his cousin, a general snail, is perhaps one of the ugliest creatures on the planet, while the snail is generally considered “cute” which is a pretty remarkable thing, since usually cute is generally defined by big eyes and copious amounts of fur. Snails have neither of these, but can have a pretty kick ass shell. So the only difference, essentially, between a slug and a snail is a lack of clothes. I think this could form the core of a convincing argument against nudism; animals with ‘clothes’ generally just look better than the naked ones. The snail is the fashionista, while the slug is the fat fuck who is “comfortable in his own skin.” A careful evaluation of the snail’s body form versus the slug is also revealing. In order to fit in his shell, the snail needs to keep the lines trim and watch his weight. The slug, on the other hand, can just let it go. No shell to try and fit into. But the slugs seem more successful. A case of the uglier cousins outbreeding their refined relations. I saw slugs all day, while the snails were only isolated to a small stretch. Why is this? Well maybe this last piece of the slug’s strategy, to look so ugly, nobody would want to eat him, has something going for it. A slow piece of juicy meat would in most cases seem ideal for a bird, but when it looks like that?!?… no thanks. We all know aesthetics are important in the cultural world, but I think they’re more important than we might think in the natural world as well. And bad aesthetics, in some situations, can be just as useful as the good.