Changing Planet

New Hot-Pink Slug Found in Australia

He’s big. He’s slimy. And he’s … neon pink?! Meet Triboniophorus aff. graeffeia new species of 8-inch-long (20-centimeter-long) slug that’s found only on one Australian mountain.

Scientists already knew that a bright-pink slug lived on Mount Kaputar (map), thinking it was a variety of the red triangle slug, a species common along the east coast of Australia. But new research shows that the colorful critter is actually its own species, said Australia’s National Parks and Wildlife Service ranger Michael Murphy.

The pink slug is large for slugs, reaching about eight inches in length. Photograph courtesy Michael Murphy/NPWS

“Recent morphological and genetics work by a researcher working on this slug family—the Athorcophoridae—has indicated the Kaputar slugs are a unique species endemic to Mount Kaputar and the only representative of this family in inland Australia,” said Murphy, who’s been stationed on Mount Kaputar for 20 years. (Also see “Photos: Fiery Sea Slug Discovered, Lays Lacy Egg Case.”)

The pink slug had gone unstudied for so long because Australian slug and snail researchers—known as malacologists—are far outnumbered by their koala-investigating brethren, Murphy said.

Their research on the new slug will likely be submitted for publication soon, he added.

Meanwhile, though, the Australian government has moved to protect this rosy rarity and other unique species by designating their mountain home in New South Wales as an “endangered ecological area.”

“Quirk of Evolution”

Tens of millions of years ago, Australia was part of a larger southern continent known as Gondwana, which included Australia, Papua New Guinea, India, and parts of Africa and South America. It was covered in rain forests similar to those of modern-day Papua New Guinea.

pink slug picture
A closeup of a pink slug. Photograph courtesy Michael Murphy/NPWS

A volcanic eruption 17 million years ago on Mount Kaputar kept a small, four-square-mile (ten-square-kilometer) area lush and wet even as much of the rest of Australia turned to desert. This changing environment marooned the plants and animals living on Mount Kaputar from their nearest neighbors for millions of years, making the area a unique haven for species such as the pink slug.

Because the pink slugs live in beds of red eucalyptus leaves, Murphy suspects their color could potentially serve as camouflage, helping the animals blend in to their leafy habitat.

“However, [the slugs] also spend a lot of their time high on tree trunks nowhere near fallen leaves, so it is possible that the color is just a quirk of evolution. I think if you are isolated on a remote mountaintop, you can pretty much be whatever color you like,” Murphy noted.

Slug Fan

Murphy added that the slugs play important roles in their ecosystems—for example, by recycling plant matter.

“I’m a big believer in invertebrates. People tend to focus on the cute and cuddly bird and mammal species like koalas. But these little behind-the-scenes invertebrates really drive whole ecosystems,” Murphy told the Australian Broadcasting Service.

pink slug picture
Pink slugs descend a tree on Mount Kaputar. Photograph courtesy Michael Murphy/NPWS

Besides the pink slug, researchers have also identified several other invertebrate species that are unique to Mount Kaputar, such as the Kaputar hairy snail and the Kaputar cannibal snail.

These finds, combined with Mount Kaputar’s uniqueness and the growing threat from global warming—temperatures just a degree or two warmer would destroy Kaputar’s flora and fauna—prompted the Australian government’s proposal to preserve Kaputar.

“They are a unique and colorful part of our natural heritage, and we should do everything we can to avoid causing their extinction,” Murphy said.

More slug news:

“Ninja” Slug Found

Flesh-Eating Slug Found in Wales

“Pancake” Sea Slug Among New Philippine Species

Carrie is a freelance science writer living in Virginia. When she's not writing about cool critters, she's spending time outside, drinking coffee, or knitting. You can visit her website at
  • Janna Salgado

    Nickitus Minajicus

  • Dana

    don’t wanna sound gross… but is it just me or does it look like a tuna sashimi !?

  • Ima Ryma

    On Australia’s Mount Kaputar
    A new slug species has been found,
    Exciting sluggers near and far
    To venture to that lush wet ground.
    The slugs favor life in a bed
    Of tasty eucalyptus leaves.
    But up a tree a slug will head,
    Leaving a slimy trail that weaves.
    Pairs of feelers for smell and sight,
    Hermaphroditic mollusc be,
    Seeking out mister and miss right
    To find a mate for he and she.

    A slug that is a bright hot pink –
    Not nature’s a nod and a wink!

  • Jay Bow

    That Kim Kardashian gets around…


    Nice work.

  • morgan brown

    wow! I am doing a project on Australia. this will be a nice addition to it.

  • Hae-SUS


  • juliuslim

    hmm…..for me i will call it a ” chilli snail ~ haha

  • agsa

    it’s a wonderful of usurer

  • Sheina

    Wow! I want to hear more! Good luck on your study!

  • Dasha

    That is one hell of a sexy slug.

  • Dave


  • Becaashew

    Disgusting ! -_-

  • Carlos Mendoza

    Amazing! Can anyone explain what is that hole on the right side of their back for?

  • Maria Eloisa

    whatever color they are, they are still slimy and scary for me >.<

  • sharon waud

    Have seen this pink long slug in our yard about 7 years ago have not seen another one since..We live in Queensland

  • Svetoslav

    Maybe the reason is the radiation from Fukushima….

  • Neeladri

    The back of the slug kind of represnt a Pink leaf( If you observe carefully), Maybe helpful in camoflage, but as you said it doesn’t need much in its habitat.

  • Peter

    “These finds, combined with Mount Kaputar’s uniqueness and the growing threat from global warming—temperatures just a degree or two warmer would destroy Kaputar’s flora and fauna—prompted the Australian government’s proposal to preserve Kaputar.”

    If global warming (we are back to that from ‘climate change’ when it suits the narrative) is anywhere near the threat we are told it is, then that ecosystem is doomed anyway, so why bother?

  • j and j

    yummi i am hungry

  • MH shaon

    its rally great

  • MS Schwartz

    Beautiful Sweet Bugs and Creatures with tiny little legs… very nice pics.

    MS Schwartz, Mimi Sodova Schwartz

  • Anny kusuma Thailand

    I don’t like it can you send to me more nice photos .

  • Lotta

    I am a big fan of slugs, snails and their relatives. I have so far met only those found in my home country so this is very interesting story from outside Europe. Have the researchers thought that what if the strange color is a sign for birds and other predators to stay away, this fellow tastes horrible?? I know that Finnish slugs use thick and toxic slime to protect them. I hope to see more of these kind of news:)

  • rebecca

    holly soo cool i really want to hold one and i love the color

  • Me


  • anselmo jimenez

    es la babosa mas grande que he visto en veracruz ay de 3 pulgadas y son cafe claro

  • Kim Sue

    Carlos Mendoza- The holes on the side are for breathing, kind of like a whale’s blowhole

  • Mohammad Farooque Mohammad Haroon

    Natoinal Geography is so valuable GK

  • Susan K.

    Thank you for this story! I’m using it in my summer school program to prompt interest in Australia, writing and scientific schools of study. Maybe one of my students will want to become a malacologist one day!

  • Laurence

    Wow I didn’t realise there was such a miracle of nature in my own state this is awesome. I am also wondering if this pink slug is actually pink because it is poisonous or toxic. Is it like the poisonous red dart frog with its bright reds???

  • Afton

    WOw sO cOoL…hOw

  • Chris

    To Peter from Thailand, Stupid comment peter, creation is alway’s worth caring for, better to do something than to do nothing, we can’t realy tell if there will be a tomorrow and that’s why we should bother to care for what is, now.
    Disregard does not make the world a better place, get closer to God and you might get to see the light my friend.

  • lokesh madaiah

    Good info about the colorful creatures….

  • nadia alexis

    logging in to Nat Geo takes me to a whole new world ….I love you guys

  • fnablo


  • Dr. Zoidberg


  • Sophia Espanola

    pink slugs look like tuna or salmon flesh cut for some sushi

  • Vi

    “However, [the slugs] also spend a lot of their time high on tree trunks nowhere near fallen leaves, so it is possible that the color is just a quirk of evolution. I think if you are isolated on a remote mountaintop, you can pretty much be whatever color you like,” Murphy noted.

    Normally my reaction to stuff like this is simply, "Hey, cool!" but that quote gives me pause. Now I'm wondering how many more vividly-colored critters there would be if species (yes, including us) weren't constantly killing each other off! What a sad little planet. 🙁

  • Justin Higgins

    That is so cool! I need to show this to my friends!

  • Cy Winskell

    The pink slug is beautiful. My wife was wondering if it was poisonous. (Not that we would be eating them!) I had no idea one could read National Geographic articles on line for free. Good on you guys! Many, many thanks.

  • Martha

    My new favorite slug! My favorite color is fuschia. This little guy is more bright pink with neon overtones than fuschia, but that’s okay, he’s only a slug, that’s close enough.

  • nob


  • Hallu

    My SASHiMi is ALiiiiiiiiiiiiiiVE !

  • madison

    I said to myself hmmmmm its not going to be pink I look and say OMG ITS PINK ITS REALLY PINK

  • skye

    wasat school looking what animals live on mountains and a hot pink slug was there second PIC so now o get to do a explanation text on the hot pink slug

  • Anni

    Wow. Like, seriously. I saw this website, and I was like ‘No way is this pink.’ Then I see it. ‘OMGG that thing is PINK!!!!’

  • Anni


  • keyleen castillo

    i love PINK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • kristoffer

    is not pink its red… ???

  • Martin O’Rourke

    Went to My Kaputar yesterday 2-01-2015 with my wife. We saw several pink slugs near the boardwalk at the summit of My Kaputar. We went there yesterday because we had 44 mm of rain in overnight in Tamworth. We hoped that they would be out and about after the rain. We were not disappointed. Took some great photos. Mt Kaputar is a magic place, worth a visit.

  • conner

    I love pink!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!pink !

  • conner

    It is so cute and funny looking

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