Pink slug discovered on Australian mountaintop

Posted By Kristen Butler,  |  Updated May 31, 2013 at 1:49 PM
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High on top Mount Kaputar in New South Wales, Australia, National Parks and Wildlife Service ranger Michael Murphy discovered giant, fluorescent pink slugs unique to a ten square kilometer patch of mountaintop.

The pink slugs are nearly eight inches long, and each night they crawl up trees in large numbers to feed on mold and moss. Murphy says that on a "good morning," misty or after rainfall, you can walk around and see hundreds of them -- but only in that small subalpine area.

"As bright pink as you can imagine, that's how pink they are," Murphy said. Scientists speculate its bright color is a form of camouflage, matching the fallen red leaves of the eucalyptus, according to the Mount Kaputar National Park website.

Mount Kaputar is home to a number of distinct species that scientists believe are living relics from a time when Australia was covered in rainforest. As volcanic activity and other geological changes dried out the continent, Mount Kaputar and was spared.

"We've actually got three species of cannibal snail on Mount Kaputar, and they're voracious little fellas," said Murphy. "They hunt around on the forest floor to pick up the slime trail of another snail, then hunt it down and gobble it up."

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the NSW Scientific Committee has moved to list the site as an "endangered ecological community," granting it one of the highest levels of protection from development. "These species have evolved from lowland ancestors and have been isolated in an otherwise snail-hostile environment," the committee's report said.

"It's just one of those magical places, especially when you are up there on a cool, misty morning," Murphy said.

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