AskDefine | Define slug

Dictionary Definition



1 a projectile that is fired from a gun [syn: bullet]
2 an idle slothful person [syn: sluggard]
3 any of various terrestrial gastropods having an elongated slimy body and no external shell


1 strike heavily, especially with the fist or a bat; "He slugged me so hard that I passed out" [syn: slog, swig]
2 be idle; exist in a changeless situation; "The old man sat and stagnated on his porch"; "He slugged in bed all morning" [syn: idle, laze, stagnate] [ant: work] [also: slugging, slugged]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. Any of many terrestrial pulmonate gastropod mollusks, having no (or only rudimentary) shell
  2. physics rarely used the Imperial (English) unit of mass that accelerates by 1 foot per second squared (1 ft/s²) when a force of one pound-force (lbf) is exerted on it.
  3. A discrete quantity of one fluid that flows though the line surrounded by another.
  4. A bullet.
  5. A counterfeit coin, especially one used to steal from vending machines.
  6. A shot of a drink, usually alcoholic.
  7. A title, name or header
  8. A lazy person, a sluggard.
  9. In the context of "television editing}} A black screen.

Extensive Definition

Slug is a common non-scientific word which is most often applied to any gastropod mollusk whatsoever that has a very reduced shell, a small internal shell, or no shell at all. A slug-like body is an adaptation which has occurred many times in various groups of snails.
The common name "slug" is most often applied to land species, but the word has also been applied to many marine species. The largest group of marine shell-less gastropods or sea slugs are the nudibranchs, but there are in addition many other groups of sea slug such as the heterobranch sea butterflies, sea angels, and sea hares, as well as the only very distantly related, pelagic, caenogastropod sea slugs, which are within the superfamily Carinarioidea.
Evolutionarily speaking, the loss or reduction of the shell in gastropods is a derived characteristic; the same basic body design has independently evolved several times, making slugs a strikingly polyphyletic group. In other words, the shell-less condition has arisen many times in the evolutionary past, and because of this, the various different taxonomic families of slugs are often not at all closely related to one another, despite a superficial similarity.
This article is primarily about pulmonate land slugs.

Land slugs

Although land slugs have undergone torsion (180º twisting of the internal organs) during development, their bodies are streamlined and worm-like, and so externally they show only a little evidence of this asymmetry, and that mainly in the positioning of the pneumostome.
The soft, slimy bodies of slugs are prone to desiccation, so land-living slugs are confined to moist environments.

Morphology and behaviour

Slugs macerate food using their radula, a rough, tongue-like organ with many tiny tooth-like denticles.
Like snails, most slugs have two pairs of 'feelers' or tentacles on their head; the upper pair being light sensors, while the lower pair provides the sense of smell. Both pairs are retractable and can be regrown if lost. On top of the slug, behind the head, is the saddle-shaped mantle, and under this are the genital opening and anus. The mantle also has a hole, the pneumostome, for respiration. The slug moves by rhythmic muscular action of its foot.
Some species hibernate underground during the winter in temperate climates, but in other species, the adults die in the autumn.


Slugs' bodies are made up mostly of water and are prone to desiccation. They must generate protective mucus to survive. In drought conditions they hide under fallen logs, rocks, plants, and planters in order to help retain body moisture.
Slugs produce two types of mucus: one which is thin and watery, and another which is thick and sticky. Both are hygroscopic. The thin mucus is spread out from the centre of the foot to the edges. The thick mucus spreads out from front to back.
Mucus is very important to slugs because it helps them move around, and contains fibres which prevent the slug from sliding down vertical surfaces. Mucus also provides protection against predators and helps retain moisture. Some species use slime cords to lower themselves on to the ground, or to suspend a pair of slugs during copulation.


Slugs are hermaphrodites, having both female and male reproductive organs. Once a slug has located a mate they encircle each other and sperm is exchanged through their protruding genitalia. A few days later around 30 eggs are laid into a hole in the ground or under the cover of objects such as fallen logs.
A commonly seen practice among many slugs is apophallation, when one or both of the slugs chews off the other's penis . The penis of these species is curled like a cork-screw and often becomes entangled in their mate's genitalia in the process of exchanging sperm. When all else fails, apophallation allows the slugs to separate themselves. Once its penis has been removed, a slug is still able to participate in sex subsequently, but only using the female parts of its reproductive system.


Many species of slugs play an important role in ecology by eating dead leaves, fungus, and decaying vegetable material. Some slugs are predators. Most slugs will also eat carrion including dead of their own kind.


Frogs, toads, snakes, hedgehogs, Salamanders, eastern box turtles, humans and also some birds and beetles are natural slug predators. Slugs, when attacked, can contract their body, making themselves harder and more compact and thus more difficult for many animals to grasp. The unpleasant taste of the mucus is also a deterrent.

Human relevance

A small number of species of slugs feed on fruits and vegetables prior to harvest, making holes in the crop that makes it more vulnerable to rot and disease, and making individual items unsuitable to sell. Slugs such as Deroceras reticulatum are a serious pest to agriculture. Pesticides are used in large-scale agriculture, while small home gardens may use slug tape as a deterrent to keep slugs out of crop areas.
In a few cases, humans have contracted parasite-induced meningitis from eating raw slugs .

Subinfraorders, superfamilies, and families


External links

slug in Czech: Nazí plži
slug in German: Nacktschnecke
slug in Estonian: Nälkjad
slug in Spanish: Babosa
slug in Esperanto: Limako
slug in Persian: لیسه
slug in French: Limace
slug in Galician: lesma
slug in Italian: Lumaca
slug in Hebrew: חשופיות
slug in Dutch: Naaktslakken
slug in Japanese: ナメクジ
slug in Portuguese: lesma
slug in Slovak: Slimáky
slug in Swedish: Sniglar
slug in Thai: ทาก

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Chilopoda, Chordata, Echiuroidea, Ectoprocta, Entoprocta, Intertype, Linotype, Monoplacophora, Monotype, Nemertinea, Phoronidea, baggage check, ball, bang, bar shot, bash, bat, beating, belt, biff, bird shot, blast, blow, bonk, buckshot, bullet, bum, cannon shot, cannonball, case shot, check, chop, clap, clip, clobber, clock watcher, clout, clump, cold-type typesetting, coldcock, composing, composing stick, composition, computerized typesetting, counter, coupon, crack, crossbar shot, cut, dallier, dash, dawdle, dawdler, deal, deal a blow, deck, diddler, dig, dillydallier, dint, do-nothing, dolittle, doodler, dose, dram, drone, drop, drub, drubbing, drumming, duck shot, dumdum bullet, dummy, em, em quad, en, en quad, expanding bullet, faineant, fetch, fetch a blow, five-em space, foot-dragger, four-em space, furniture, fusillade, galley chase, gentleman of leisure, goldbrick, goldbricker, goof-off, grape, grapeshot, hair space, hat check, hit, hit a clip, hot-metal typesetting, idler, imposition, jab, jolt, justification, justification space, justifying space, knock, knock cold, knock down, knock out, laggard, langrel shot, layout, lazybones, let have it, lick, lie-abed, line of type, lingerer, loafer, loiterer, loller, lotus-eater, lounger, lubber, manstopping bullet, mope, moper, nip, paste, patent space, pellet, pelt, photocomposition, photosetting, phototypesetter, phototypesetting machine, plodder, plunk, poke, portion, potterer, pound, procrastinator, punch, putterer, quad, quadrat, quoin, rap, rifle ball, round shot, scrip, setting, shell, shot, shrapnel, slacker, slam, sleepyhead, slog, slouch, sloucher, sloven, slow goer, slow-foot, slowbelly, slowpoke, slugabed, sluggard, smack, smash, smite, snail, snap, snifter, snort, soak, sock, space, spaceband, split shot, stick-in-the-mud, strike, strike at, stroke, swat, swing, swipe, tag, tattoo, thick space, thin space, thump, thwack, ticket, time killer, time waster, token, tortoise, tot, trifler, typesetting, typesetting machine, waiter on Providence, wallop, whack, wham, whop, yerk
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