The Cryptozoologist



Posted on February 21, 2012 at 7:35 PM





Blind, deathly white, and with a full set of razor-sharp teeth, it is like a creature from a B-movie horror film. But for gardeners in Wales the albino ghost slug, which devours worms and sucks them up like spaghetti, is all too real.

The ghost slug, Selenochlamys ysbryda, is a species of predatory air-breathing land slug. It is a shell-less pulmonate gastropod mollusk in the family Trigonochlamydidae.

The species, which was unknown to science prior to 2006, was discovered that year in Glamorgan, Wales and was formally described and named in 2008 by Ben Rowson, a research assistant and PD candidate at the National Museum Wales (Amgueddfa Cymru), and Bill Symondson, an ecologist at Cardiff University. Rowson said, "We had to thumb through lots of old publications in Russian and German to find anything like them" but then discovered they were something entirely new. They may well eat other slugs too."

This bizarre creature can reach 2.5 inches (6.4 cm) in size, with its body extended. It has no eyes, and is white in color. It is nocturnal and burrowing, and unlike the majority of slugs, it is a carnivore, feeding on earthworms at night using its blade-like teeth. Both the mantle and the breathing hole are found at the tail end of the body. The species was unknown to science prior to 2006.


Because of the slug's white color and nocturnal habits, and because it has been so rarely seen, it was given the species name ysbryda, the word "ysbryd" meaning ghost in the Welsh language. This in turn gave rise to the common name, "ghost slug". This appears to be the first case of a species name having been taken from the Welsh language.

Other slug species in this family are found in Turkey and Georgia, however, as far as is currently known, no representatives have been found and described in Western Europe prior to this discovery. Although the species is almost certainly introduced, the country of origin of this species, and how it made its way into Britain, is still unknown. Bill Symondson speculated that the slug originally evolved in cave systems alien to the UK, and may possibly have arrived in Wales in soil in a potted plant.

The first specimen was collected in the churchyard of Brecon cathedral on December 29, 2004, but its significance was overlooked at the time. A second specimen was found in a lane in Caerphilly on October 29, 2006. This single specimen was photographed and then released. A year later, another slug was found by a gardener near Cardiff, Wales, where it was brought to the attention of the National Museum Wales. Additional ghost slugs have been found in Gorseinon, near Swansea, Wales, Hay-on-Wye (Welsh Borders), and Knowle, near Bristol, England.


The slug is not harmful to humans, but as a presumed introduced species, more records are being solicited, partly on the basis of an appeal to the public. As more information is gathered, the distribution of the species will be monitored to check that it does not become an invasive pest species as it presumably spreads across South Wales. There are fears it could hurt the ecosystem because it feeds on earthworms, which are vital for the well-being of soil.

Selenochlamys ysbryda was selected as one of "The Top 10 New Species" described in 2008 by The International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University and an international committee of taxonomists.

The specific epithet ysbryda, is derived from Welsh “ysbryd,” meaning a ghost or spirit. The word was Latinized by the addition of a feminine ending 'a', and is to be treated as a noun in apposition. The name alludes to the species' ghostly appearance, nocturnal, predatory behavior and the element of mystery surrounding its origin."

Gardeners and garden centers are being urged to inspect plants and pots to stop the slugs escaping and breeding.

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