January 16, 2003
Sorry You Asked, Meryl?

Meryl Yourish asks for help on the scientific name of an alpine banana slug, Ariolimax dolichophallus:

What are those latin terms anyway? Calling Doc Weevil . . . no, wait. I'll bet they're disgusting. Never mind. Besides, if you sound the last one out, it sounds rude enough.

As she guesses, the last part, -phallus, means just what it looks like it means. Greek dolicho- means 'long', so dolichophallus would translate the first two words of 'Long Dong Silver'. As for the genus, the Ario- presumably comes from the family name, Arionidae, but whether that refers to Arion the Greek poet saved by a dolphin, Arion the horse of Adrastus (one of the Seven Against Thebes), or something entirely different is not obvious. On the other hand, limax is easy enough: it's Latin for 'slug', and is most likely related to limus, 'mud, slime'.

Among much curious lore, the Sexual Records web-site reports that Ariolimax dolichophallus has the longest phallus in relation to body size of any living creature, and that a six-inch slug has a 32.5" organ: hence the name. This must be the individual record of an unusually well-endowed specimen, since the U.C. Riverside Urban Entomology site reports that "its extremely attenuate apical phallus (copulatory organ)" is only "occasionally . . . longer than the slug itself ". I wonder if U.C. Santa Cruz knew this when they chose the name 'Fighting Banana Slugs' for their sports teams.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at January 16, 2003 07:15 PM

So can everyone tell that the Doctor has some background in entomology? In my early college years, when home for the summer, one hazard of returning from partying with my friends was stumbling over wasp incubators in the bedroom the Doctor and I shared.

Posted by: steevil (Dr Weevil's bro Steve) on January 16, 2003 09:27 PM

Yep, Doc, they knew it. So that was the banana slug search. It's all Alex Frantz's fault. We had a bit of a tiff over banana slugs and banana slug sex and things like that. Well, not really a tiff. Sort of a row.

Maybe just a loud discussion. ;-)


Posted by: Meryl Yourish on January 23, 2003 08:27 PM

I think that should read 3.25" not 32.5" organ.

Posted by: Paul Babin on July 12, 2003 01:37 PM