“My grandson found this worm in our yard in the Sacramento area, and we haven’t been able to find it on your site. Could you please identify it?” is all this reader asks in her submission concerning the beige and brown, long worm with the spade-shaped head in the picture below.
The worm our reader’s grandson found in their yard is a hammerhead worm. Hammerhead worms are carnivores, meaning they eat other organisms, rather than plants like many other worms and worm-like creatures do. Although we have covered hammerhead worms before, we understand that our reader may not have found an exact match on our website, seeing as hammerhead worms come in various colors and sizes. The way one can always tell a hammerhead apart from other worm species is the hammer-shaped head from which they get their name.
Hammerhead worms are actually quite incredible, when you get down to their anatomy and biology. They have receptors underneath their head which enable them to detect biological signatures left behind by other organisms (such as variations in pH levels), which then lets them track down their prey. The type of prey they typically hunt includes, but is not limited to, insects, snails and other hammerhead worms.
Once they have tracked down their prey, the way in which they catch and eat them is equally incredible, if not disturbing. First, the hammerhead worm will secrete a liquid that paralyzes the prey. Secondly, they will wrap their bodies around the prey and consequently secrete another fluid that liquefies the prey. Thirdly, they will literally drink up their victim through an appendage that extends from their ‘face’ that acts as nature’s straw.
Now, despite the sinister way in which hammerhead worms kill their prey, they pose no real threat to humans, so our reader needs not worry for her grandson. That said, we do recommend caution when around a hammerhead worm, and we recommend not touching it with bare skin. If it feels threatened, the hammerhead worm can secrete these same liquids onto a human, and although they will not paralyze or liquefy an animal of that size, it might still sting and/or cause an allergic reaction.
To conclude, the worm our reader’s grandson found in their yard is a hammerhead worm. While these worms are extremely dangerous to the little critters they hunt, they are relatively harmless to human beings. Of course, we still do not recommend picking this worm up, so avoiding it is probably the safest route. We hope this article answered our reader’s question sufficiently and we wish her and her grandson the best!
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