Tribune: California has been sluggish to name a state mollusk

In late 2023, SB 732 (Ch. 23-502) named the pallid bat1 as the official state bat. Californians north to south breathed a sigh of relief that this state emblem slot had finally been filled, meaning we could turn our attention to the important matter of naming the state mollusk.

Assemblymember Gail Pellerin of District 28 rose to the task, introducing AB 1850 in January 2024, which would establish the banana slug as the state slug (slugs are part of the mollusk family). No longer confined to existence as a mere mascot, elevating the banana slug to state emblem will “promote appreciation, education, and research of banana slugs in this state.”

AB 1850 lists the following banana slug qualities:

  • They are detritivores that eat poison oak and death angel mushrooms;
  • Their mucus is a liquid crystal used to send chemical messages;
  • They have a symbiotic relationship with the California redwood tree, eating plants that compete with the seedlings for light; and
  • They have “oozed into popular culture,” most notably on a t-shirt worn by John Travolta in “Pulp Fiction.”

Hopefully, this run for emblemhood will be successful. In 1988, then-Governor Deukmejian vetoed a bill that would have made the banana slug California’s official state mollusk. He stated in his veto message that the bill was “not representative of the international reputation California enjoys.” Whether the banana slug has since increased in popularity or California’s international reputation is slipping remains to be seen.

1 The pallid bat can be found throughout the western United States, as well as parts of Canada and most of Mexico. Here’s a YouTube video of the bat in Big Bend National Park in Texas: