Today we will attempt to identify the specimen in a photograph one of our readers sent us. Other than the photo, he didn’t send us any information regarding where the worm was found or any other notable characteristics about it. The photograph shows a long, thin worm-like organism spread across a piece of wood. We would guess the worm is anywhere between 8 and 14 inches long. Its has a shiny dark green body. We think it might have thin black stripes running down its body, but the stripes might just be a result of the glare from the camera. Here is the picture:
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We think this specimen might be a hammerhead flatworm! As their name hints, these flatworms have a distinct broad head shape. While the worm our reader found doesn’t have a clear broad head, it looks like the head might be folded in slightly. Despite the head region not being distinct, we still would bet our reader has discovered a hammerhead flatworm.
Hammerhead flatworms, also known as Bipalium or broadhead planarians, have narrow striped bodies that can grow up to 20 inches long. They are nocturnal, so most people spot them at night or very early in the morning. In addition, hammerhead flatworms live in moist soil, because they need a damp, dark environment to thrive. Hammerhead worms are carnivorous, with their primary food source being earthworms, which they attack and eat rather gruesomely. First, they follow an earthworm trail and capture it with their muscles and a sticky secretion. Next, they secrete enzymes onto the trapped earthworm that dissolve the earthworm’s body. Finally, the hammerhead worm sucks the liquified earthworm tissue into its body. Yuck! Luckily, hammerhead flatworms are harmless towards humans!
To wrap up, one of our readers discovered a long, thin worm and asked us to identify it. We believe he has found a hammerhead flatworm.
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