Fun facts about worms
With autumn upon us, we thought we'd dig deep into the soil and find out more about those critters who are critical to soil health: worms.
We've got some fun facts, a Q&A with a vermiculturist (read the fun facts to find out who or what that is!), some further reading, and for members, a bunch of excellent resources to be found on the Shared Table.
Fun facts about worms
An important part of the ecosystem
Earthworms love to eat scraps from plants and soil. They turn the scraps into nutrients and minerals in their stomach and concentrate them when they poop. This means the nutrients and minerals are easily accessible by plants.
Worms have been around for longer than dinosaurs
The oldest record of the existence of worms are fossils of the annelid worm. This fossil was found in what is now China and is estimated to be around 514 million years old! This is more than double the existence of dinosaurs who were first thought to have existed around 252 million years ago.
Worms have five hearts and are cold blooded
Worms have five hearts, shaped like arches. These arches help pump blood through the worm's body – a pretty simple task due to its shape.
Worms are cold blooded, meaning they can't control their body temperature, which will be the same as their surroundings.
Worms do not have teeth
Worms have no teeth, so instead they have muscly mouths. They grind the food they eat in their gizzard (their stomach) which they digest and poop out.
Worms don’t have eyes
Instead of eyes, worms have receptors under their skin that sense whether it is light or dark. Worms prefer to be in the dark as it helps keep their skin moist. If a worm spends more than an hour in sunlight, its skin will lose its moisture and it risks becoming paralysed (or worse!).
The three metre massive worms
Native to Australia and often found in the Gippsland region of Victoria, these worms can expand their body to make themselves seem much larger – almost three metres! When these giant worms move, they make a gurgling noise, often leading to detection.
The largest worm measured 6.7 metres
The largest earthworm ever recorded was discovered in 1967 in South Africa. It was a Rapper Giant Earthworm and measured at an amazing 6.7 metres long. Rapper Giant Earthworms are generally around 1.4 metres long.
6000 different species
Worms are found all over the world except for in Antarctica. They live in a large variety of habitats such as soil, leaves, riverbanks, beaches and even trees. They range in size from being .5mm to 3m.
A worm expert is called a vermiculturist
Vermiculturists study worms and their properties, often looking at how worms help with the composting of scraps and how worms eat, digest, and move.
And speaking of vermiculturists, here are some questions for our vermiculturist friend, Charlie who runs Soil Revolution, from citizen scientists Archie and Griffin:
Do any worms have legs?
No, all earthworms are legless. A worm’s body is divided into about 100 tiny segments and each segment has muscles that the worm can contract or relax to help it move.
Why do worms wriggle when you hold them?
Mainly because they want to get out of your hand and back into the garden! Worms are very sensitive to light (even though they can’t see) because the sun dries out their skin, which is very bad news for a worm because they need their skin to stay moist so they can breathe!
How many times a day do worms poo?
A great question! I’ve never tried counting the number of poops, but worms can eat up to a third of their body weight every day, so they must poo pretty often!
Do worms poo at night and when they are asleep?
Worms are generally most active a night-time, so that’s actually when a lot of the pooing happens! Worms don’t have a daily sleeping and waking routine like we do (remember it is always dark where they live), but there are certain times when they are less active – and therefore doing less poo.
What is the population of worms over the whole planet?
We don’t know for sure, but scientists have estimated there are more worms on (or in?) the earth than there are stars in the universe! So that’s many trillions of worms wriggling through the soil all over the world.
Charlie is a professional worm farmer and he and his big team of worms convert organic waste into natural fertilisers so gardeners and farmers can build healthier soil and grow healthier plants.
Worms on the Shared Table
Kitchen Garden members can access more resources about worms and composting over at the Shared Table:
Further reading and resources
- How earthworms can help your soil, Dept Primary Industries NSW
- Discovering the earthworm’s half a billion year-old cousin, Dr Luke Parry, University of Oxford
- Largest earthworm in the world, Animals A-Z
- Do worms have eyes? And other worm facts, Woodland Trust
- Worm life cycle, Uncle Jim’s worm farm
- 9 different types of earthworms plus fascinating facts, Nayturr
- How big do earthworms and worms get?, Animal Fate
- Amazing worm facts, Enrecos
- Life of an earthworm, Journey North, University of Wisconsin
- The evolution of earthworms, Dr Frank Anderson & Dr Samuel James
Images courtesy Charlie Tucker, Soil Revolution.
< Back to Latest News