Common Name: Giant Gippsland Earthworm
Species: M. australis
Binomial name: Megascolides australis
Discovered in 1878, one of the world’s largest worm is an earthworm that is one of 1,000 native Australian earthworms on record today. Called the “Giant Gippsland Earthworm,” this massive creature has the ability to grow anywhere from 6.5 to 10 feet in length and around 0.8 inches (2 cm) in diameter. The longest Giant Gippsland worm on record, however, was 13 feet long.
Like other earthworms, the Giant Gippsland Earthworm needs water and moisture to survive. This means, the Gippsland rarely leaves its wet underground labyrinth. According to the Museum of Victoria, it is only found in the Bass River Valley of South Gippsland, in an area of about 100,000 hectares bounded by the towns of Loch, Korumburra and Warragul.
The Gippsland worm will not come out if you try to coax it. What you will do is scare them into burrowing deeper into the ground. Any disturbance will make the worms slither as fast as they can through their slippery tunnels. You will hear a gurgling noise as they hustle beneath the surface.
The Gippsland earthworm is an endangered species, so it is against the law to disturb them. These creatures are already fragile, thanks to agriculture, herds of animals, and pesticides. If you dig up a Gippsland worm and handle it, you could end up killing it. Fortunately, Gippsland earthworms mate every spring and summer. The egg sacs are around 2-3 inches long and they take a year to develop. Baby Gippsland worms are anything but. When they are born, the Gippsland worm is already 8 inches long. The head is deep purple and the skin is pinkish-gray.
For more information about the Giant Gippsland Earthworm, the following reading materials might be useful:
Taylor, S., Crosthwaite, J. & Backhouse, G. 1997. Giant Gippsland Earthworm Megascolides australis. Natural Resources and Environment Flora & Fauna Guarantee Action Statement No. 77. 7 pp.
Van Praagh, B. 1992. The biology and conservation of the Giant Gippsland Earthworm Megascolides australis McCoy, 1878. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 24 (12):1363-1367.
All About Worms is always free, always reader-supported. Your tips via CashApp, Venmo, or Paypal are appreciated! Receipts will come from ISIPP Publishing.