How Fast Do Earthworms Travel?

If you’ve ever watched a worm wriggle around in the soil, you’ll notice that no matter how aggressive they move, they don’t travel as fast as a spider. The speed at which earthworms travel depends on the size of the earthworm. Makes perfect sense huh? A small earthworm travels at a rate of around 27 feet per hour (0.2 centimeters per second). A medium sized worm can cover 185 feet in one hour or 1.5 centimeters per second. And large earthworms can make their way across 240 feet of earth in one hour.

So what’s the secret to earthworm travel? According Backyardnature.net:

“The secret to earthworm travel lies in two things you can’t see just by looking.Though earthworms have no bones, their complex system of muscles enables them to not only wiggle like crazy but also to very quickly alternate between being stubby and thick, and long and slender. Earthworms possess tiny, practically invisible bristles, called setae (pronounced SEE-tee; singular form seta, pronounced SEE-tah), which usually are held inside their bodies. When the worms want to stay in their burrows, they jab their setae into the surrounding dirt, thus anchoring themselves in place. This comes in handy if a bird nabs a worm’s head and tries to pull the worm from its burrow. The setae anchor the worm so well that it may break before coming out. -By Backyardnature.net

Here’s how these two features enable earthworms to travel: Let’s say that a worm in its burrow wants to move forward. First, using its complex musculature, it makes itself long. Then it anchors the front of its body by sticking its front setae into the soil. Now it pulls its rear end forward, making itself short and thick. Once the rear end is in place, the front setae are withdrawn from the soil, but setae on the rear end are stuck out, anchoring the rear end. Now the front end is free to shoot forward in the burrow as the worm makes itself long and slender. Then the whole process is repeated. -By Backyardnature.net

Earthworms have many other attributes that make them unique and the subject of curiosity. Continue reading to learn more fun facts about earthworms.

There are literally thousands of different worm species on the planet today. Without them, the earth’s trees, plants, fruits, and vegetables would not survive. Worms do several things for the earth. They aerate the soil, which means they dig tunnels in the soil, which allows air to get to the plant roots. Worms also eat organic matter, digest it, and excrete the digested material. This digested material is called “castings.” The castings are rich with phosphorus, calcium, and potassium.

Worm castings are so valuable and ten times richer in nutrients that commercial topsoil, that many gardeners and farmers use the composting method to fertilize plants and crops. Worm castings also help create channels within the layers of the earth’s soil, which helps to hold water better and keep moisture in the soil longer. Continue reading to learn more fun earthworm facts.

•There are more than 4,400 different types of worms in existence today. Of the 4,400 species, there are 2,700 species of earthworm. There are more than 1,200 species of another type of worm called the inchworm.

•Earthworms belong to one of several different types of ecological groups. There are three broad ecological groups that have been identified for earthworms including: epigeic, endogeic, and anecic. The groups are based on what the earthworms eat and where they tend to live in the soil. The epigeic group is a litter feeder, litter dweller, pigmented, small in size, and it doesn’t burrow. The endogeic group consists of rich soil feeders, topsoil dwellers, has no pigmentation, burrows horizontally, and it is small in size. The anecic consists of litter and soil feeders, soil dwellers, dorsally pigmented bodies, extensive vertical burrows, and a large size. Size and color are usually good distinguishers for adult earthworms.

•Earthworms can be found in just about every corner of the earth. They live in trees, in bark, and under rocks as well as along rivers, near springs, and in ponds. Their favorite place to live, however, is burrowed inside the earth’s rich soil. During the winter months they burrow deep within the earth until the surface warms again during the spring. During the warm summer months, worms stay closer to the tops of soil where they create tunnels to wiggle in and out of. These tunnels are extremely important for plant life as they create a path for water and air, which is essential for the survival of plant life.

•The clitellum of adult earthworms contains features called genital tumescence, and tubercula pubertatis. The clitellum features, the male pores, and female pores are found above the clitellum and are all parts of the earthworm reproductive system.

•The earthworm has “setae” which are tiny hair-like projections that are arranged in rows along the earthworm body. The setae are used for locomotion by the earthworm.

•Places like China, Australia, Greenland, and the Sahara Desert have their own indigenous species of earthworms. Besides the Sahara Desert, you won’t find large numbers of worms living in “sandy” areas, especially sandy beaches. The vast majority of worms on our planet can only survive under certain environmental conditions.

•Worms have no lungs, so they breathe through their skin. This means that the worm’s environment and skin must be moist at all times. This allows the worm to breathe in oxygen. If the worm’s skin dries out, the worm will die from suffocation. While worms need moisture to survive, too much moisture can be fatal. If too much water is present, it takes the place of oxygen, which will cause the worms to flee to the surface. Once on the surface, worms will be exposed to sunlight. If worms remain in the sunlight for too long, they can become paralyzed.

•In addition to needing a moist environment for survival, worms must also remain close to their food supply. Worms feed off of leaves and dead grass, which contain organisms that provide a healthy diet of bacteria, algae, and fungi. Worms feast on dirt as well, especially if they live deeper inside the earth. Worms also eat plants, fruits and vegetables.

•Although you cannot see them, believe it or not, worms do have mouths. The earthworm mouth is called the prostomium. The worm’s mouth is actually big enough and powerful enough to grab a leaf and drag it around. They also have a pharynx, esophagus, crop, gizzard and intestine. When the worm eats its food, it pulls the materials into its mouth with the help of the pharynx and its prostomium (also called acron). This creates a suction motion. This suction motion aids in helping the worm consume large amounts of food in a sort amount of time. The gizzard grinds the food.

•Worms eat so much that they typically produce excrement equal to their own weight every 24 hours.

•The worm’s moist sustenance rich environment plays an extremely important role in reproduction as well. Worms prefer to mate and reproduce in warm moist soil, away from the light.

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