How These Hot-pink Slugs Outlasted the Australian Brush Fires

By: Katie Carman  | 
Pink slug
The Mount Kaputar slug (Triboniophorus aff. graeffei), also known as the Kaputar pink slug, is a giant air-breathing land slug that can reach up to 8 inches (20 centimeters) in length. Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

With their 1980s-reminiscent, neon pink color, these massive critters look more like the waxy goo sliding around in a lava lamp than a rare slug living in Mount Kaputar National Park in New South Wales, Australia. But the Mount Kaputar slug (Triboniophorus aff. graeffei) is indeed very real, and to Australia's delight, still here after the devastating brush fires that killed an estimated half billion animals.

Luckily, these Aussie residents had channeled their inner Boy Scout and were well-prepared when the fires hit. Since slugs get dangerously dehydrated in dry weather, they instinctively retreat deep under rocks or inside rotting logs to conserve their life-sustaining moisture. This proactive sluggishness, along with the ability to squeeze into tight spaces, keeps them safe from predators like birds, toads, and well, fires.


The endangered slugs can grow to be up to 8 inches (20 centimeters) long and are only found in one tiny yet magical enclave of the world, similar in isolation to another peculiar creature, the Texas Blind Salamander. But the boundaries of this slug's 6.2-square-mile (16-square-kilometer) rainforest-like home on Mount Kaputar may have been created by chance over 20 billion years ago when a volcanic eruption insulated a small area of lush greenery from what is now surrounding desert.

Mount Kaputar is also a haven for the slug's fellow gastropod — a subgroup of the mollusk family — the snail. A snail's external shell is what really sets it apart from any slug, but if the Kaputar slugs were given the chance to have a protective covering, it's doubtful they'd be subtle with their color choice. They're most likely sporting a pink body to help them blend in with the red eucalyptus leaves on the forest floor.

While it's yet to be seen how they'll adapt to having less moss and lichen to eat after the fires, slug fans and nature lovers alike are hoping these eccentric Australian inhabitants will be leaving a trail of slime for many years to come.