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Sarasinula plebeia (Fischer, 1868). Family Veronicellidae

Sarasinula plebeia (Fischer, 1868)
is a relatively large shell-less
slug. The upper surface (notum)
is leathery and can sometimes ap-
pear pitted. The body form is flat-
tened and becomes more elon-
gate when the animal is alive and
crawling. The notum colour is
generally light to dark mottled
brown with no pale stripe. Like
all members of its family a mantle
cavity is absent. The pneumo-
stome (breathing pore) is very
small (Shea 2006) and located at
the posterior, under the notum.
The head has two pairs of tenta-
cles; the upper pair have terminal
eyes. The tentacles are hidden
under the notum when the slug is
inactive. Because of its surface
texture, mottled brown colour and
elongated oval shape, S. plebeia
is sometimes referred to by the
common name “Caribbean
Sarasinula plebeia is native to Cen-
tral America however it is now
widely distributed throughout the
Americas and the Pacific. According
to Barker et al. (2005) this species is
widely distributed across the Fiji
Description & Distribution
Habitat & Behaviour
Sarasinula plebeia is generally
found in moist leaf litter or or-
ganic material on the ground, or
under stones or rotting logs in ar-
eas relatively close to human
habitation. It is also found to be
arboreal on low vegetation. In Fiji,
S. plebeia is found in low to mid-
land disturbed forests, planta-
tions, grass lands and gardens
(Barker et al. 2005).
Sarasinula plebeia is nocturnal, hid-
ing during the day. According to
Rueda et al. (2002) the species is
most active between 2 to 4 am and
individuals can travel up to eleven
metres in a single night. It has also
been recorded that these slugs can
bury themselves to depths of 25cm
to 1 metre during the dry season
(Garcia et al. 2007).
Special points of
Veronicellid slugs are notori-
ously hard to identify . Fiji’s
is most readily con-
fused with
Semperula wal-
With breeding in the wet sea-
S. plebeia
can reach high
population densities in dis-
turbed habitats.
S. plebeia
is an important
agricultural pest. It is ranked
in the top 10 mollusc species
with potential to have major
pest significance for the
United States.
Sarasinula plebeia
Current Risk Status in Fiji:
Medium to High
Body Type:
Slug, no shell
Adults up to 5 cm in length
USP Introduced Land
Snails of the Fiji
Islands Fact Sheet
Series, No. 4
Source and location of photographs:
G. Brodie (Viti Levu) & P. Ryan
Direct funding from the Critical
Ecosystem Partnership Fund
(CEPF) and a USP FSTE Grant is
gratefully acknowledged.
(Fischer, 1868)
Soleolifera) ocorrentes nas regiões Australiana e Oriental.
Biociéncias 9: 137-151.
Rueda A., Caballero R., Kaminsky R. & Andrews K. L. (2002).
Vaginulidae in Central America, with emphasis on the
bean slug Sarasinula plebeia (Fischer). In: Barker G.M.
(ed.). Molluscs as Crop Pests. CABI Publishing, New York.
Rueda A. A., Slansky F. & Wheeler G.S. (1991). Compensa-
tory feeding response of the slug Sarasinula plebeia to
dietary dilution. Oecologia 88: 181-188.
Shea, M. (2006). Exotic snails and slugs found in Australia.
Malacological Society of Australasia Newsletter 130: 7-8.
Thomé J. W. (1975). Os gêneros da familia Veronicellidae
nas Américas (Mollusca; Gastropoda). Iheringia Zoologia
48: 3-56.
USDA (2010). New Pest Response Guidelines-Tropical Ter-
restrial Gastropods. United States Department of Agricul-
ture, Washington D.C. 29 pp.
Sarasinula plebeia is an hermaphrodite i.e. indi-
viduals are able to function as both male and fe-
male during their lifetime. If kept in isolation,
self-fertilization may occur (Rueda et al 2002).
The species lays eggs (oviparous) and produces
1 - 4 clutches per year that average ~ 30 eggs.
The species regulates its food intake in response
to water and diet quality. Reproduction is gener-
ally high during the rainy season with maturity
reached at ~ 2.5 months (Garcia et al. 2007).
Populations in Mexico are known to increase sub-
stantially during heavy continuous rain and this
phenomenon has also been observed in Fiji.
For Further Information Contact:
Dr Gilianne Brodie, Biology Division, USP,
Suva, Fiji Islands. Phone: 679 3232876,
Barker, G.M., Price, R. & Briggs, C. (2005). Priorities for ad-
ditions to the Fijian protected natural areas network: an
assessment based on complementarity in land snail as-
semblages. New Zealand Landcare Research contract re-
port prepared for Wildlife Conservation Society, Suva.
162 pp.
Bishop, M.J. (1977). Terrestrial Mollusca of Queensland: the
family Veronicellidae. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum
18: 53 – 59 pl. 18.
Cowie, R.H., Dillon, R.T. Jr., Robinson, D.G. & Smith, J.W.
(2009). Alien non-marine snails and slugs of priority quar-
antine importance in the United States: A preliminary risk
assessment. American Malacological Bulletin 27: 13-132.
Garcia, E.N. Thome, W.J., & Casteillejo,J.A. (2007). Review
of Veronicellidae from Mexico (Gastropoda: Soleoliferea).
Revisita Mexicana de Biodiversida 78: 41-50.
Gomes, S.R. & Thomé, J.W. (2001). Anatomia comparada de
cinco espécies da família Veronicellidae (Gastropoda,
Page 2 Sarasinula plebeia (Fischer, 1868)
Sarasinula plebeia is an agricultural pest on nu-
merous crops and can be extremely abundant
(Cowie et al. 2009). The species is a polyphagous
herbivore (feeds on a variety of plants) but pre-
fers young leaf tissues and soft stems. S. plebeia
is the most important pest of bean crops in Cen-
tral America. It is also a known pest in several
overseas countries for sweet potatoes, cucurbits
and nursery mahogany (Rueda et al. 2002, Garcia
et al. 2007, USDA 2010).
S. plebeia is a possible vector in Fiji for parasites
like the rat lung worm Angiostrongylus cantonen-
sis, which can cause meningoencephalitis in hu-
mans. The species is also known as an interme-
diate host for the related nematode, A. costaricen-
sis, which causes an inflammatory disease of the
intestine in humans (Rueda et al. 2002).
Similar Species
Two other introduced veronicellid slugs occur in
Fiji. S . plebeia is most similar to Semperula wal-
lacei, but the latter is smaller, generally paler
brown and with an indistinct pale stripe running
longitudinally over the mantle (S. Gomez pers.
comm.). Laevicaulis alte is larger and darker, with
a pale stripe running longitudinally over the man-
tle. These slugs are very variable in body colour-
ation however they are readily distinguished by
their internal anatomy, especially that of the re-
productive system (Gomes & Thomé 2001).
Threats & Similar Species
How to Cite:
Brodie, G. & Barker, G.M. 2012. Sarasinula plebeia
(Fischer, 1868). Family Veronicellidae. 'USP Introduced
Land Snails of the Fiji Islands Fact Sheet Series’, No. 4.
Further Reading
P. Ryan
... wallacei: Gomes & Thomé, 2004;Gomes et al., 2010), and South America (Sa. plebeia: Brodie & Barker, 2012b;Daglio et al., 2020). However, it is also possible that Japanese populations are not derived from these species' native regions, and they may have been sourced from other areas they have been introduced (see Table 1 for non-native ranges). ...
Full-text available
Reliable identification of species is important for protecting native ecosystems against the invasion of non-native species. DNA barcoding using molecular markers, such as the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI) gene, helps researchers distinguish species. In this study, we focused on introduced veronicellid slugs in the Ryukyu Islands and some greenhouses on mainland Japan. Some veronicellids are medium-to-high risk pest species for humans. Identifying veronicellid species by their external morphology is difficult and unreliable because there is substantial overlap between intraspecific variation and interspecific differentiation. Therefore, internal morphologies such as male genitalia have been the primary traits used to distinguish veronicellids. To identify introduced veronicellid slugs in Japan to the species level, we used morphological assessment of male genitalia and DNA barcoding of the standard COI gene fragment. We also conducted species-delimitation analyses based on the genetic data. The results showed that five evolutionarily significant units, corresponding to four nominal species inhabit the Ryukyu Islands, of which two species were also found in the greenhouses of mainland Japan, including the first record of Sarasinula plebeia in Japan. The presence of non-native slug species could increase the transmission of parasites in Japan.
Full-text available
In May 2012 Rotuma Island, the main island of the remote Rotuma Group (Fiji), was surveyed to document the composition of the non-native land snail fauna and to investigate if populations of previously recorded native land snail species persist. From sampling at nine locations, twenty-one land snail species from eleven gastropod families were found. Of these, eight species are non-native and two of these Parmarion martensi Simroth, 1893 and Quantula striata (Gray, 1834) (Ariophantidae) are new records for the Rotuma Group. Ten of the 13 species of native land snails found - including the endemic partulid Partula leefi E. A. Smith, 1897 and the rhytidid Delos gardineri (E. A. Smith, 1897) - were detected only as empty shells. The native Ouagapia perryi (E. A. Smith, 1897) and the endemic Succinea rotumana E. A. Smith, 1897 and Sinployea rotumana (E. A. Smith, 1897) remain undetected on Rotuma Island since their first collection in 1897. The non-native, invasive predatory flatworm, Platydemus manokwari, was also found and represents a major threat to the island's land snail fauna. This non-native species appears to be absent in many other parts of the Fiji Island archipelago and thus a re-evaluation of existing quarantine measures is required to address its potential spread to non-invaded areas. Comparisons with earlier surveys indicate a shift in the structure of the Rotuman land snail fauna over a 115-year period, with declining native components and increasing prevalence of non-native species. Further sampling, focusing on residual native habitat in less accessible areas such as coastal cliffs and offshore islets, is urgently needed to establish the conservation status of Rotuman native land snails and determine the threat posed by both, non-native snails and P. manokwari.
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