BioKIDS home

Kids' Inquiry of Diverse Species

spotted garden slug

Limax maximus

What do they look like?

Spotted garden slugs can attain at least 6 inches in length. They vary in color from yellowish-gray to brown with black spots on the mantle near the head and black stripes extending along the rest of the body. The tail area is wrinkled. There is a pneumostome or breathing pore on the back part of the mantle that this slug uses to breathe.

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range length
    15.24 (high) cm
    6.00 (high) in

Where do they live?

This slug is an introduced species in North America and other temperate regions of the world.

What kind of habitat do they need?

Spotted garden slugs are found in moist places in fields, woods, and gardens. They inhabit damp ground under wood, rocks, vegetation, and other shaded areas.

How do they grow?

Eggs are approximately 1/4 inch in diameter, and when first laid, they are colorless and transparent. Gradually, the eggs become cloudy, resembling small pearls. Development is direct whereby larval stages occur within the egg, and eventually, tiny slugs emerge from the eggs. Limax becomes sexually mature in two years.

How long do they live?

This slug may live up to three years.

How do they behave?

Spotted slugs have photoreceptors that are used to detect light levels in its environment. They will become active when the ground surface temperature ranges from 44.2 to 65.7 degrees Fahrenheit.

These slugs are capable of learning about their environment. They will respond to odors encountered. When a bad smell is evident in the presence of food, a slug will learn to avoid the food. However, if it detects a bad smell, and then some time later, a bad smell is detected in the presence of food, the slug will not avoid the food.

These slugs will absorb water by through their muscular foot. They will engage in huddling behavior with each other to conserve body water and avoid dehydration. This occurs most often during the winter. To avoid too much water in the body, these slugs will give off excess water. They may also estivate, or become dormant, during dry periods.

A spotted garden slug is able to compact its body to half its length while creeping along the ground. It secretes a slime trail that help it glide more easily.

What do they eat?

Spotted garden slugs will eat fungi, decaying organic matter, and plants.

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • lichens

What eats them and how do they avoid being eaten?

When irritated, spotted garden slugs will secrete a colorless mucus. A slug may lift its tail and vibrate it back and forth as a means of scaring a potential predator. It may clamp its mantle to the ground to protect its head. To scare away predators, it may even squirt blood through its breathing hole!

What roles do they have in the ecosystem?

This slug may help cycle nutrients in soil via its feeding activities.

They may be an intermediate host for trematodes and nematode worms.

Certain kinds of protozoans may be parasitic in them.

Commensal or parasitic species (or larger taxonomic groups) that use this species as a host
  • ciliated protozoans

Do they cause problems?

This slug has been known to damage gardens. It may be an intermediate host for some trematode and nematode worms which can harm our pets.

How do they interact with us?

This slug may contribute to regeneration of soil because of its eating habits.

University of Michigan Museum of ZoologyNational Science Foundation

BioKIDS home  |  Questions?  |  Animal Diversity Web  |  Cybertracker Tools

. "Limax maximus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed February 23, 2024 at

BioKIDS is sponsored in part by the Interagency Education Research Initiative. It is a partnership of the University of Michigan School of Education, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, and the Detroit Public Schools. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant DRL-0628151.
Copyright © 2002-2024, The Regents of the University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

University of Michigan