Worming Around; Worms on the Rise

Melissa Chiu Mitcham 2

Objectives

Classmates will be learning about the earthworms digestive system. They'll learn the organs, functions, and structures of a earthworm's digestive system. Understanding the functions helps us understand how important earthworms are.

Background information

Lumbricina also known as earthworms live underneath the soil and are mostly found in cultivated soils such as pasture, croplands and your own backyard. The predators of the earthworm are snakes, birds, rodents, insects and us, indirectly most of the time. The prey of the earthworm is bacteria or soil. The niche of a worm are that they help agriculture and circulate air in the soil, fertilize it with their waste and feed on leaves, dirt and other organic matter. The ecological adaptations of a earthworm are that each segment of the worm has setae, hairs.

Classification of Earthworm

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Annelida

Class: Clitellata

Subclass: Oligochaeta

Order: Haplotaxida

Family: Lumbricidae

Genus: Lumbricus

Species: L. terrestris

Interesting Facts

Earthworms come in a seemly infinite variety—around 6,000 species worldwide.

Of the more than 180 earthworm species found in the U.S. and Canada, 60 are invasive
species, brought over from the Old World, including the night crawler.

Lacking lungs or other specialized respiratory organs, earthworms breathe through their skin.


The skin exudes a lubricating fluid that makes moving through underground burrows easier and helps keep skin moist. One Australian species can shoot fluid as far as 12 inches through skin pores.


Baby worms emerge from the eggs tiny but fully formed. They grow sex organs within the first two or three months of life and reach full size in about a year. They may live up to eight years, though one to two is more likely.

The northern forest evolved after the glaciers retreated, yielding an ecosystem that does not benefit from earthworms. These forests require a deep layer of slowly decomposing leaves and other organic matter called “duff” that overlays the soil. When earthworms invade these forests, they quickly eat up the duff, with the result that nutrients become less available to young, growing plants and the soil, instead of aerating and loosening, becomes more compact.
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