The recent Australian bushfires (2019) wrecked millions of hectares of land and destroyed exceptional flora and fauna. Australia, which is one of the world’s largest biodiversity hotspots, has suffered immensely during this bushfire season. Out of the many plants and animals ravaged by the fires, ‘Mount Kaputar Slugs’ is a unique endemic species. Surprisingly, Kaputar Slugs have successfully protected themselves from the catastrophe. Continue reading to discover what it is!
Mount Kaputar Pink Slugs
The scientific name of Kaputar slugs is Triboniophorusaff graffei. This species of the land slug is 8-inch (20-centimeter) long and is hot pink in color! The Kaputar slugs inhabit only at the top of Mount Kaputar, inside Mount Kaputar National Park, and a few other regions in Australia. Hence, Kaputar Pink Slugs are quite rare. Note that these areas are the worst affected ones during the 2019 Australian bushfires.
The Kaputar slugs were earlier believed to be a variant of the red triangle slug. However, now we know that the pink Kaputar slugs are an endemic species found only in Australia. A volcanic eruption in Mount Kaputar about 17 million years ago led to the creation of a high-altitude area. Various species of slugs and invertebrates began residing isolated in this region. This is because the eastern Australia rainforests soon withered due to extreme climate change.
Further studies showed that the Mount Kaputar Pink Slugs have been in the region for more than 20 years. Hardly anyone had any knowledge about their existence!
Role of Kaputar Slugs in the Ecosystem
Kaputar slugs generally eat algae and mosses that grow on tree trunks. They effectively contribute to the ecosystem by breaking down the plant wastes into nutrient-rich substances that enrich the soil and promote plant growth. Hence, they recycle plant matter in the environment. They are also an essential part of the food chain as they serve as food for various animals and birds.
How Kaputar slugs survived the Australian bushfires
Although numerous reports say that almost 80% of the Kaputar slugs have perished due to the 2019 Australian bushfires, they saved a large section of themselves through their intelligent use of bodily functions. They usually reside in red eucalyptus leaves that line the forest floor. Their fluorescent pink color then serves as a camouflage for them to hide in the leaves which have a similar color. Their fluorescent pink color thus helps them in dangerous times, the Australian Geographic says.
They also retracted into logs of rotten wood, under barks of trees and even into the ground as soon as they sensed the weather to be too hot and dry. This ensured that they were cautious against the fires beforehand as they went into hiding. Moreover, their slimy nature and small shape and size allowed them to hide in the crevices of rocks and boulders when they found themselves stuck in the Australian wildfires.
Threat of Extinction
Although some sections of the Kaputar slugs evaded the fires, the impending danger of extinction still looms over them. After the complete destruction of their habitat, this endemic species of slugs are under grave threat of extinction. They are already endangered and we may not get a chance to conduct any proper research on them!
The Kaputar slugs are unique and an irreplaceable part of our wildlife heritage. The ongoing issue regarding climate change is negatively affecting flora and fauna. Rising levels of global warming are detrimental to the wellbeing of endangered species such as the Kaputar pink slugs. Since the ecosystem dwells in the interdependence between species, every seemingly insignificant species also has great value.
Other Endemic Species of the Kaputar Mountain
The Kaputar hairy snail and the Kaputar cannibal snail are other notable invertebrate species unique to the Mount Kaputar region.