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Earthworm Fact File

Appearance

The earthworm has a long pink body which is formed from ring-like segments known as annuli. Each segment is covered by small bristles known as setae which they can use to move and burrow.

On the first segment there is the mouth. They lack eyes and instead have light-sensitive tissue near the head.

In the upper third of the body is a bulge known as the clitellum.

Their body can measure up to 30cm (11.8in) long with an average weight of 11g (0.39oz). Most individuals are smaller than this though.

Diet

The earthworm is a detritivore feeding on decaying organic materials such as soil, animal manure and rotting leaves. Earthworms burrow in to the soil where they will feed on soil and extract the nutrients. They are vital to soil health helping to move nutrients and minerals through the soil.

Each day an earthworm can consume as much as one third of its body weight.

Earthworms don't have teeth. Instead small stones in their gut grind up the food.

earthworm

Scientific Name

Lumbricus terrestris

Conservation Status

Not Evaluated

Weight

11g (0.39oz)

Length

30cm (11.8in)

Lifespan

6 years

Diet

Detritivore

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Range

Earthworms are native to Europe. Humans have introduced the species to North America and western Asia. They are seen as a threat to native worm species which they often outcompete.

Habitat

They can be found in a range of habitats through areas with a temperate or boreal climate.

earthworm

Reproduction

The earthworm will mate above the ground. Breeding tends to take place in damper parts of the year mainly in spring or early summer.

These animals are hermaphrodites and have both males and female reproductive organs. Despite this they can not self fertilize and must mate with another individual.

Individuals tend to seek out a mate who is of the largest size available.

A cocoon is produced from a liquid produced in the clitellum which is the bulge in the first third of the body. In to this cocoon they deposit the sperm and egg. This is then buried.

After two to four weeks the young earthworms will emerge.

It takes one year for them to reach adulthood and two to obtain reproductive maturity.

Behavior

While moving through the soil the earthworm will help to aerate the ground.

These worms spend much of their time below the ground during the day but may be seen above the ground at night leading to the nickname of nightcrawler.

earthworm

Predators and Threats

Natural predators of the earthworm include birds, rats, pigs, foxes and toads. Other invertebrates such as beetles and centipedes feed on them.

In parts of Europe they face predation from the introduced New Zealand and Australian flatworms which are efficient predators of earthworms.

Humans have helped to expand the range of the earthworm as they moved around the world. They are often used in compost bins and as a bait.

In some parts of their range they are considered an agricultural pest.

Quick facts

This species is also known as the nightcrawler, lob worm, dew worm or common earthworm.

earthworm

Photo Credits

Top

By Michael Linnenbach – first upload in de wikipedia on 09:58, 16. Feb 2005 by Michael Linnenbach, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=105418

Middle One

By Rob Hille – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31252907

Middle Two

By David Perez – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16306558

Bottom

By Donald Hobern from Copenhagen, Denmark – Lumbricus terrestris, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50128937

References

Martin, R., Bryan, K., Cooper, D. and Bond, S., n.d. The Animal Book. Lonely Planet.

Cabi.org. 2021. Lumbricus terrestris. [online] Available at: <https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/109385> [Accessed 26 February 2021].

Animals. 2021. Earthworm | National Geographic. [online] Available at: <https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/invertebrates/facts/common-earthworm> [Accessed 26 February 2021].

Kids.kiddle.co. 2021. Lumbricus terrestris Facts for Kids. [online] Available at: <https://kids.kiddle.co/Lumbricus_terrestris> [Accessed 26 February 2021].

Backyardbuddies.org.au. 2021. Earthworms. [online] Available at: <https://www.backyardbuddies.org.au/backyard-buddies/earthworms> [Accessed 26 February 2021].

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