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Facts About Earthworms That Will Stun You

Stephen Rampur
It is said that the rat snake is the farmer's best friend. While there is no doubt about that, farmers also share an unlikely and highly underrated friendship with earthworms. As you go through these facts about earthworms, you'll get a better idea about what we are talking.
Earthworms can thrive in any type of soil on Earth, as long as it contains enough moisture and food for them. The main function of moisture is to help them respire. Then again, too much of moisture is not good for them, and hence, earthworms can be seen coming out in the rain.

Types of Earthworms

There are around 3000 types of earthworms in the world, with sizes ranging from few inches to 2 - 3 ft. They come in colors like purple, reddish brown, and bright blue. Red worms, night crawlers, gray worms, and tiger worms are some types of earthworms. Some of these species are also eaten by people and used as bait or enticement to catch fish.

World's Biggest Earthworm

The giant Gippsland earthworm found in Australia, is the biggest earthworm species in the world. On an average, they measure around 3.3 ft in length and have a diameter of 0.79 in. Their head is dark purple in color, while their body is bluish-gray.
They live in deep burrows in soil and need water for respiration. These earthworms have a comparatively longer lifespan and can take around 5 years to reach maturity. They breed during hotter months of the year and lay egg cocoons in their burrows. The newborns are around 7.9 in when they hatch after a period of 12 months.

How Many Hearts Does an Earthworm Have?

Earthworms do not have hearts, but have an organ known as the 'aortic arch' that carries out the functions of the heart. They have five aortic arches, and in between each, there is a gland that helps the worm digest calcium that is absorbed from eating dirt. Every 'aortic arch' functions in a similar way, so they cannot be differentiated.
They help to pump blood around the body, but don't have any chambers. Earthworms don't have lungs either. They breathe through their skin, taking in oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide.

Do Earthworms Have Eyes?

Earthworms don't have eyes, but are still able to sense light by their anterior. They can't bear light for a long time though, and are paralyzed if exposed to it for a long time. An earthworm will also die if its skin becomes dry.

What Do Earthworms Eat?

They primarily feed on decaying plants and other small organisms. They mostly obtain their food from the ground in which they burrow. They use large amounts of soil and small pebbles to extract the organic stuff that is needed as nutrition.
They store all nutrients in their gastric mill and deposit the waste material outside their burrow. According to a study, an earthworm takes in and pulverizes food equal to its own weight, every day.

Are Earthworms Useful Creatures?

Earthworms are considered good friends of farmers and gardeners, and have proved to be helpful in agriculture. They enable farmers in effective plowing, manuring, and harrowing.
They till the ground and create small tunnels that allow air and moisture to pass through, which, in turn, helps in plant growth.Tunnels store water that can be used by plants and allow the air to pass, which causes bacteria to break down organic matter within the soil.
After they digest food, they produce excreta that is known as 'casting' or 'vermicompost', which functions as a good soil-conditioning material. It improves the porosity of soil and helps it retain moisture.

How Do Earthworms Reproduce?

The reproductive system of earthworms is different from other insects and animals. They are hermaphrodites, meaning they have both male and female sex organs. An earthworm can produce sperms as well as eggs. However, it can only fertilize its eggs by the sperms of another earthworm. Hence, they need to find sexual partners and obtain sperms from each other.
Hereafter, if you get a chance to see an earthworm, just think about what all it can do.