Saturday, 1 June 2013

One will really amaze you, the other just eats his mates

High in the mists that shroud Mount Kaputar, near Narrabri in north-western NSW, scientists have discovered a secret world.

By day it is an isolated pocket of snow gums, wrapped in straggling native vines.

But on rainy nights, it is the domain of giant, fluorescent pink slugs - up to 20 centimetres long - and carnivorous, cannibal land snails that roam the mountaintop in search of their vegetarian victims.

''It's just one of those magical places, especially when you are up there on a cool, misty morning,'' said Michael Murphy, a national parks ranger for 20 years, whose beat covers the mountain top.

''It's a tiny island of alpine forest, hundreds of kilometres away from anything else like it. The slugs, for example, are buried in the leaf mould during the day, but sometimes at night they come out in their hundreds and feed off the mould and moss on the trees. They are amazing, unreal-looking creatures.''

Locals had long reported seeing bizarre pink slugs after rainfall in the area, but it was only very recently that taxonomists confirmed the slugs, Triboniophorus aff. graeffei, as well as several of the snail species - which prey on other vegetarian land snails - were unique to the mountaintop.





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