Public Nuisance

Random commentary and senseless acts of blogging.

The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
-Ronald Reagan

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Wednesday, June 26, 2002
Slug Fest

(Warning: although the Nuisance is normally a PG blog, the following is rated R for definite adult content. I say this so that any adolescents reading this will know to go straight to this post and skip all the other stuff.)

Meryl Yourish has crossed the line. I don't mind that she disses my neologism, and I'm pleased to be listed among the Buffy bloggers. She can say what she likes about the contents of my blog.

But nobody puts down the banana slug and gets away with it.

The banana slug was adopted as an informal mascot within a few years of the opening of the UC Santa Cruz campus. The reason was obvious to anyone who knows the campus: they're a very frequent part of the local fauna. It could have been the more majestic redwoods which dominate the forests that much of the campus is set in, and which actually have a symbiotic ecological relationship with the humble slug. But after a group of students formed the Banana Slug Theater in the school's second year, the slug took off and soon became the school symbol.

In the '80s, a formal mascot was needed when the school joined the NCAA. Chancellor Sinsheimer passed over the banana slug for the sea lion, sparking a student revolt. In a campus referendum, the banana slug, for reasons I will show, took about 94% of the vote against the sea lion.

The scientific name for the banana slug species found on the UCSC campus is Ariolimax dolichophallus, which translates roughly as "slug which makes Milton Berle feel inadequate".

The hard facts are exposed here:

If you measure [penis length] as a percentage of body length things are a little different. Goose barnacles, with inch-and-a-half-long appendages, rate about 150%. Unbeatable, you think, until you learn that a rare species of Alpine banana slugs (Ariolimax dolichophallus) measure 6-inches long and possess 32.5-inch tumescences, or 542% times their body length. Incredible.

Actually, that could be an exaggeration. I have seen no other source which puts the slug's endowment at more then twice body length, which is still pretty impressive.

And Meryl asks why a male student would embrace this mascot? You have to wonder what planet she's from.

However, if it had relied only on the male vote, the banana slug would have at best eked out a close victory. By looking further into the realm of slug sexuality, we can see how the banana slug's appeal cuts across all groups, leading to the sweeping victory of the referendum.

Banana slugs are hermaphroditic, having both male and female organs, and a mating pair will generally use both sets at once. (The gay/lesbian/transgender vote.) Slugs don't form long term relationships, but they do take the phrase 'one night stand' literally, since their mating, often nocturnal, routinely lasts for 12 hours or more. (The women's vote.) As the mating progresses, especially with those slugs who have particularly earned the dolichophallus title, a problem often arises. As described by amateur slug biologist Alice Harper, "It appears the slug's retractor muscle isn't strong enough to pull out."

Nature is creative, and the slug has a solution for this difficulty. The slug whose partner fails to withdraw after a reasonable interval chews its penis off. (The feminist vote.) This process is referred to as apophallation. Just in case you want to start a conversation at your next dinner party.

The banana slugs hermaphroditism and sizable equipment leads to another possibility, gently noted here: "Although slugs are hermaphroditic, each animal equipped with both male and female reproductive organs, they mate with themselves only if no other slugs are around. " And what college student hasn't been there?

It isn't hard to see why there's such a market for banana slug fetishes.

With its cross-gender appeal to all student bodies, the banana slug naturally ran away with the election. Chancellor Sinsheimer surrendered, and we have been the few, the proud, the banana slugs ever since.