We think it goes without saying that a website that specializes in writing about worms holds a certain appreciation for worms. This appreciation may be something that is not reflected by the general public, but is something we want to change with this article, which will give a couple of examples of worms with abilities so extraordinary that one might have to reconsider their negative view on worms.
To begin with, we have flatworms, and specifically the planarian flatworm. This free-living flatworm is known for its somewhat cartoonish appearance, having two eyespots on its back that resemble googly eyes. These marine worms have a plethora of abilities that will make you marvel at the magic of nature. First of all, the aforementioned eyespots on the back of their bodies are actually light sensors, and paired with those are a pair of lobes on either side that are not only used for sense detection, but also for capturing prey with the adhesive material they secrete.
Secondly, planarian flatworms have an opening on their bottomside which acts as their mouth, as well as their anus, thus being multifunctional. When they consume food such as protozoans, snails and other worms, the food is distributed to all parts of their perfectly symmetrical bodies. Planarian flatworms are hermaphrodites, meaning they possess both male and female sexual organs, enabling them to mate with any other planarian flatworm they come across. Most impressive are their regenerative abilities. If one were to split a planarian flatworm in half, the tail would regrow its head and the head would regrow its tail and one would end up with two flatworms. Similarly, if one cut it into four separate pieces, one would end up with four flatworms. They are the real life hydras of our world.
Following this, we come to a creature which is not technically a worm, but is worm-like in shape and is a creature we have covered multiple times in the past: the slug. The slug is a common garden pest which feeds on the leaves of our precious plants in our gardens. For this reason, they are generally despised, but not only for their status as garden nuisances, but also for their slimy appearance. However, we ask now that our readers put aside their preconceived notions of slugs for a moment to consider the truly amazing capabilities they possess. To start off with, the four antennae visible on the head of the slug are actually sensory appendages. The top two antennae detect light and smell, while the bottom two are used for touch and taste.
Additionally, the ‘snail trail’ that they leave behind, and which disgusts so many, actually serves multiple purposes. One function it serves is being a survival tactic. Slugs live underground in little dens, and as soon as they leave it to go in search of food, they start producing this mucus so that when night falls and it is time to go back home, they can simply follow their trail home. How slugs can differentiate between their own trail and others is, we suppose, a slug secret. Be that as it may, sometimes a slug will purposefully follow another slug’s trail in order to find a mate, and like planarian flatworms, they are hermaphrodites, so they needn’t be picky in who they choose. Likewise, the mucus is apparently so vile in taste, that it also serves as a defence mechanism against predators, who are likely to find the taste so repulsive that they spit the slug right back out when they attempt to eat it. The mucus also serves to make their slow slither across the ground a little smoother. Lastly, there are even those who lick banana slugs for supposed health benefits.
Furthermore, also like planarian flatworms, slugs have awesome regenerative powers. Like the planarian flatworm, if a part of a slug is cut off, it will regrow the body part. Even more incredibly, some species of slug will self-amputate as a defense mechanism to get away from predators who have already stuck one of these slugs in their mouths, so that they can make the perfect, albeit slow, escape. Hence, slugs are the perfect example of how an animal has evolved to cope with its natural handicaps; despite being incredibly slow, slugs have developed all kinds of ways to outrun their much-faster predators.
To conclude, we have outlined the fascinating and otherworldly abilities of two worms which we think deserve more attention for their bizarre, yet marvelous biology. We hope that this article has proven an interesting read for our readers, and that if they wish to see more articles like this one, they will write any suggestions in the comment section below!