Today I found out..... 10 Very Interesting Worm Facts
According to research done at the Rothamsted Experimental Station, depending on the soil quality, there can be anywhere from 250,000-1.75 million earthworms per acre of land. Poor quality soil will have closer to the 250,000 range; good quality soil, such as farm land, will have closer to the 1.75 million worms per acre. This means that on an average farm with livestock, the weight of the worms beneath the surface of the land will likely outweigh the livestock that walk on top.
Earthworms can consume about ½ to 1 times their body weight every day and can process about 10 pounds of organic material per worm per year. They also will eat just about any dead organic matter along with processing a variety of garbage and even tiny rocks that have organic matter on them, grinding the rocks into a paste that will enrich the soil. They also force air through the underground tunnels they create, thereby aerating the soil as they work. In the process of doing all this, they process and enrich the soil; they aren’t just nature’s garbage disposals, but also natural gardeners.
Charles Darwin, noted the amazing ability of earthworms to bury things in the soil, even entire buildings as they gradually process soil underneath and around the buildings having it sink deeper and deeper over time. They are also quite efficient at burying and processing small things like coins and random bits of garbage, which they will literally grab and pull below the surface where they can safely process it.
Earthworms are hermaphrodites (i.e. an animal with both male and female sex organs). So when two worms mate, both worms produce children. The worms mate by getting in more or less a 69 position, exchanging sperm with one another. Much later, a cocoon is then secreted by the clitellum band, which is visible near the front of the worm. This is roughly ring shaped. As its sliding out of the secreted ring, the worm deposits its eggs and the other worm’s sperm into the ring. The ring then seals itself once the worm is completely out. Eventually, the baby earthworms emerge fully developed and ready to go process some soil and be the staple of a lot of animal’s diets.
Earthworms are able to regenerate most lost segments of their bodies, though most lost segments of their bodies, though this varies somewhat from species to species and the extent of the damage to themselves. In 1972, it was proven that some species of earthworm are able to regenerate to the extent that you can grow two living worms from one bisected worm. However, this is not common among most earthworm species; with most, the side with the head is the only one that survives, assuming the damage isn’t too extreme.
Earthworms not only work tirelessly throughout their lives cultivating and fertilizing soil for plants to grow, but also form the basis of many food chains. They are a staple for many types of birds, snakes, moles, hedgehogs, beetles, snails, slugs and also are eaten by a variety of mammals such as foxes, bears, etc. Charles Darwin went so far as to say of earthworms, “it may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world, as have these lowly organized creatures.” He believed that earthworms are wholly responsible for the top layer of rich soil on the Earth.
South African earthworms can grow as large as 22 feet long, with the average length being about 6 feet long. The largest one ever found so far, being 22 feet long, was found on a road side in 1967.
Even though earthworms need to breathe, they have no lungs; rather, they breathe through their skin. This is why earthworms surface after heavy rains, even though it is extremely hazardous for them to do so. The high water content of the soil after heavy rains doesn’t allow gases to diffuse across their skin so if they don’t surface, they will suffocate and die.
Earthworms have no eyes, but they can sense light, particularly on their front end. They use this sense to make sure they avoid light as much as possible. Most varieties of earthworms cannot handle direct sunlight for long. This is for two reasons; first, because they can’t allow the mucus on their skin to dry out or they will suffocate; second, because most also can’t handle direct exposure to UV rays for more than a few minutes to an hour. If they are exposed to UV light too long, they will become paralyzed and die quite quickly.
Fossil evidence shows that earthworm-like creatures have been around for at least a half a billion years, surviving the mass extinction of animals about 65 million years ago that finished off the dinosaurs, among others. There have been earthworms that have been discovered as much as 2 miles below the surface of the Earth. Down there, temperatures can reach as high as 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Today, there are about 6000 species of earthworms known, of which about 120 species are widely distributed around the world.