Giant hot-pink slugs living atop a dormant volcano can breathe a bit easier now that Australia's terrible bush fires appear to have swept past their isolated habitat.
The endangered Mount Kaputar Pink Slug (Triboniophorus aff. Graeffei) has always led a precarious existence. Found only inside a roughly 100 sq km (about 40 square miles) ecozone in Mount Kaputar National Park, New South Wales, the species is exceptionally vulnerable to climate change: rising temperatures have the potential to reduce – or even eliminate - its cool and moist mountaintop refuge.
Such isolation leaves the hot-pink-hued, frighteningly large (they can grow up to 8 inches long!) slugs vulnerable in other ways as well. That threat became all too real recently when waves of raging bush fires swept through the region located 570 km (about 350 miles) northwest of Sydney.
Bush fires have been ravaging Australia since the start of the fire season last July, with the southeastern state of New South Wales suffering the most damage.
Researchers from the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service feared the worst for the roughly 20 unique species of snails and slugs living on the upper slopes of Mt Kaputar after bush fires roared through the region.
Recent rains dampened the ground, however, reducing the danger from fire while dumping much-needed moisture. NPWS staff took the opportunity to visit the park and, to their delight, discovered at least 60 of the brilliantly-tinted molluscs frolicking among the leaf litter on the forest floor.