So this is the research rabbit hole I've been down all morning.
Over the weekend I found myself on a farm -- a farm where donkeys frolic and where, in the nature of things, psychedelic mushrooms bloom from their scattered poops. As any southern farm boy or rural hippie can tell you, this is exactly where one may find mushrooms that contain psilocybin. The animals accidentally ingest the spores as part of their herbivorous diet and then poop them out -- so here the coprophilous fungi thrives.
Now at this point a wandering hippie may harvest the crop and take it all home to his black-lit, tie-dyed lair of cosmic contemplation. But he better be quick, because he's not alone in his shroomthusiasm. The slugs love them too.
Yes, the slugs -- those grotesque, pale-bellied gastropods who abandoned their shells eons ago yet still keep all their bodily orifices and genitals packed tightly round their face. If you can call it a face. They terrify me.
So here's the question: Do slugs trip on psilocybin when they consume it? Because in humans, the substance generates a wide variety of mind-altering effects. Time changes. Reality shifts. Sometimes we feel a deeper connection with the universe and openness to each other.
But what about slugs?
The answers are not as forthcoming as I'd hoped. But here are two areas to consider:
1. Slugs love a variety of mushrooms and not all of them are edible by humans. As pointed out in "The Handbook of Mushroom Poisoning: Diagnosis and Treatment," slugs thrive on mushrooms in the genus Amanita , home to the deadly destroying angel and death cap species. And according to mycologist David Moore, mushroom toxicity levels are aimed at deterring insects, slugs and small mammals after a single nibble. It tastes weird, so they give up after one bite. But humans? Well, as Moore puts it, "A large animal will eat the whole mushroom; then both will wind up dead..." So in other words, despite the slug's relatively small size, we're talking about gastropod that regularly dines on toxic fungi and we're talking small doses.
2. How intelligent are snails and slugs? Their nervous systems are relatively simple, which is why neruoscientists come back to gastropod studies time and time again. As we discussed in our episode "Junkies of the Animal Kingdom," various creatures consume psychedelic substances, but do slugs have the necessary mental faculties to get much out of it? Maybe not, but perhaps we don't give them enough credit. Here's a wonderful quote from S.M. Martin's "Terrestrial snails and slugs (Mollusca: Gastropoda) of Maine."
So do slugs "trip" on magic mushrooms? Perhaps I'm missing a definite study on the subject (if so, please let me know), but it seems like a case of "probably not," but if they're truly capable of rat-level cognitive function, then who knows?
* That's a great grey slug in case you were wondering.