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Almost everything we know we learned from banana slugs

AFTER A POLL in the Princeton Review named UCSC the No. 3 party school in the nation, Bay Area radio station 93.5-FM asked listeners to nominate a mascot that better reflects the school's newly acquired rave status than the bookwormish slug. Suggestions that included "weed whackers" and "worm at the bottom of the tequila bottle" irritated alumni and current students alike, who claim that life at UCSC is as academically rigorous as other campuses. But if UCSC is more committed to the banana slug than ever, then surely it's time to examine its life more closely--and apply the lessons learned.

  • Evolved from snails millions of years ago, slugs traded houses on their back for remnants they carry inside mantles. This adaptation cost them protection, moisture and range, but allowed them to squeeze inside the tiniest of crevices, while surviving without light and calcium. Moral: Give up dairy products and dreams of home ownership and prepare to live in a dank toolshed--or leave town.

  • Slugs constantly coat themselves with slime, vital for movement, defense, water retention, reproduction and possibly nutrition. Moral: You can never be too slimy if you want to succeed in life.

  • Slugs don't eat redwood saplings. Moral: Respect the ecosystem.

  • An amateur scientist wrote the book on slugs. Moral: Academia isn't everything.

  • Banana slugs are sliding down a genetic blind alley that only a natural mutation or genetic engineering can stop. Moral: Unless UCSC changes its practice of unapophallated gigantism, by making painful cuts or cooperating more with the city, we seem doomed to be victims of its gigantic success.

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  • From the September 26-October 3, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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