I love the rainforest. I love its wetness, and I love the mists that rise from the trees when it is sunny. I love its creeks, and I love all of those damp little creatures that scurry around in the leaves. Yes, I even enjoy looking at slugs.
In spite of this, I have never licked one.
There are tales about people who lick slugs. I am not one of those people. Why? Well, slugs eat poo, and I don’t lick things that eat poo. Enough said.
Apparently, if you lick a slug long enough, your tongue will go numb. After touching a slug one day (don’t ask) and inadvertently placing my finger in my eye, I can attest to the superpowers of slug slime. My eye certainly did go numb, and it was not a pleasant feeling. Unfortunately, I did not acquire any other superpowers from this event, and I am not yet able to walk up walls or leap tall buildings in a single bound.
Why am I telling you this tale of woe? Well, because slug slime may be coming to visit you one day soon, if you’re unlucky enough to need some medical help. Or perhaps you have a wheel that needs oiling. You see, slug slime’s amazing powers are being investigated by researchers in the field of biomimetics – inventions that mimic biological systems.
At the University of Washington, the late zoology professor Ingrith Deyrup-Olsen studied the remarkable polymer that is slug slime, using her understanding of the slime to further research into mucus build up in Cystic Fibrosis.
Over across the pond, Professor Christopher Viney at Heriot-Watt University has been studying the slug’s cousin, the African land snail. Specifically, he’s studying how the slime creates a hard, thick plug across the entrance to the snail’s shell when the snail needs to go dormant in times of drought. He posits that this slime might prove to be a useful bone-mending tool.
Nature’s pretty smart, and scientists have realized that nature’s intelligence extends to all fields, from the superpowers that allow snails to trundle straight up a wall to the tough, expandable polymer that is slug slime.
So the next time you head to the doctor, should you expect to see your esteemed medical professional whip out a tube of slime for your aches and pains? Not yet, but perhaps one day soon, your broken self might be knit together with the help of a bit of slime-inspired goodness.