By Matt Seek | October 1, 2010
From Xplor: Oct/Nov 2010

Got snot? Of course you do. Your nose makes enough every day to fill a soda bottle. And, that’s a good thing. Snot, slobber, slime—whatever you want to call it—is made of mucus (myoo-kus). Mucus looks and feels gross, but it’s really useful. It traps particles in the air— dust, germs, pollen—before they reach your lungs. But, protecting your lungs isn’t all mucus can do. Read on to learn more about oozy, gooey, wonderful slime.

Sliding on a Highway of Snot

Slugs don’t have legs, wings or fins. So, how do they move? They slide on a layer of slime. The bottom part of a slug’s body, called a foot, oozes mucus over everything it touches. The mucus makes the slug stick to stuff—they can crawl up glass—and it greases the slug’s path, helping it slip over things. The slime is so slick slugs can glide over knives without getting sliced! Mucus also keeps slugs from drying out and discourages other animals from eating them. If you were to lick a slug—who would do such a thing?— you would find that slug slime tastes awful!

Once Upon a Slime

If you’ve ever caught a fish, you know they feel really slippery. That’s because they’re covered with slime. A fish’s slime protects it from diseases and helps the fish slip easily through the water. Slime also acts as a gooey Band-Aid, protecting wounds so they heal faster. If you’re going to release a fish you’ve caught, try to remove the hook while the fish is still in the water. If you can’t, make sure to wet your hands before picking up the fish. That way, you won’t remove too much of the fish’s precious slime.

Super Skin

Slimy salamanders have amazing skin. They don’t just wear it, they breathe through it. These little amphibians don’t have lungs like you and me or gills like a fish. Instead, oxygen passes right through their skin into tiny blood vessels just underneath. It’s a neat trick, but there’s a catch: Their skin has to be moist for oxygen to pass through. That’s where slime comes in. Salamander skin is coated with the stuff. The slime acts like a raincoat, except it keeps moisture in instead of out. And, that keeps these little guys moist and alive. Thank goodness for slime!

Cool Drool

This is George. George slobbers a lot. Although you may not want to smooch this slobbery pooch, his drool is quite a useful tool. George’s slobber contains mucus. The mucus greases George’s throat so when he wolfs down his food—George rarely takes time to chew his chow—the chunks slide down easily and don’t scratch. Our slobber, called saliva (suh-lie-vah), has mucus, too. Without this slippery slime, swallowing a tortilla chip would be awfully painful!


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This Issue's Staff

David Besenger
Bonnie Chasteen
Chris Cloyd
Peg Craft
Les Fortenberry
Chris Haefke
Karen Hudson
Regina Knauer
Kevin Lanahan
Kevin Muenks
Noppadol Paothong
Marci Porter
Mark Raithel
Laura Scheuler
Matt Seek
Tim Smith
David Stonner
Nichole LeClair Terrill
Stephanie Thurber
Alicia Weaver
Cliff White
Kipp Woods