Time to meet our contenders. On the Red Corner… Weighing less than – nevermind, it’s weight is neglible, anyway – the Earthworm!
Here’s a cutesie but icky picture of it:
Gruesome, huh? Yeah, I know. Some people might not like earthworms, but they’re actually very helpful little guys. Here are some facts from Wikipedia:
Overview: Earthworm is the common name for the larger members of a class/subclass under the the phylum Annelida. There’s over 5,500 known species around the world, existing almost everywhere except in places with extreme temperatures – polar and arid climates.
Anatomy: “Earthworms have a closed circulatory system. They have two main blood vessels that extend through the length of their body: a ventral blood vessel which leads the blood to the posterior end, and a dorsal blood vessel which leads to the anterior end. The dorsal vessel is contractile and pumps blood forward, where it is pumped into the ventral vessel by a series of “hearts” (aortic arches) which vary in number in the different taxa.”
Other facts: Earthworms are hermaphrodites. That means their both male and female at the same time. While this may sound great, they cannot, unfortunately, fertilize their own eggs. When earthworms mate, both partners actually get pregnant! Hahaha… Talk about fast population growth. Yeah, explain to them the concepts of population control!
Earthworms also have the regeneration abilities like some reptiles. And this ability varies between species. They travel underground by wriggling their bodies forming undulating movements. If you’ve seen an earthworm, you know what I’m talking about. This process actually aerates the soil and mixes them together, and is very helpful to plants. It is said that an abundance of earthworms in organic gardens is beneficial. So, if you see one in you flower garden, don’t kill it. Just let it be.
Finally, one interesting fact about the worm guys:
One often sees earthworms come to the surface in large numbers after a rainstorm. There are three theories for this behavior.
The first is that the waterlogged soil has insufficient oxygen for the worms, therefore, earthworms come to the surface to get the oxygen they need and breathe more easily. However, earthworms can survive underwater for several weeks if there is oxygen in it, so this theory is rejected by some.
Secondly, some species (notably Lumbricus terrestris) come to the surface to mate. This behavior is, however, limited to a few species.
Thirdly, the worms may be using the moist conditions on the surface to travel more quickly than they can underground, thus colonizing new areas more quickly. Since the relative humidity is higher during and after rain, they do not become dehydrated. This is a dangerous activity in the daytime, since earthworms die quickly when exposed to direct sunlight with its strong UV content, and are more vulnerable to predators such as birds.
Conclusion: So there you have it. Our first contender. You can see now, that these little guys are important to the soil ecosystem.
In a few days, we’ll be meeting our other contender…