Did you know...Around 6,000 species of earthworm are found worldwide. British scientists have estimated that 1 acre of land can contain 250.00 to 1.75 million earthworms. The common earthworm is also known as the night crawler (it typically surfaces after dark) Earthworms breathe through their skin. The earthworms role in soil production is known as a result of detailed studies carried out by Charles Darwin.
The common earthworm or lob worm is a tube-shaped, segmented worm which is a member of the phylum Annelida. Earthworms are commonly found living in soil, feeding on live and dead organic matter.
Earthworms are hermaphrodites, that is each individual carries both male and female sex organs. They lack either an internal skeleton or exoskeleton, but maintain their structure with fluid-filled coelom chambers that function as a hydrostatic skeleton..
They construct permanent deep vertical burrows which they use to visit the surface to obtain plant material such as leaves for food. An earthworm will consume up to their body weight in plant material every day. Earthworms also come to the surface at night to mate, following which both animals produce egg cocoons in which the young develop until they emerge as small worms. These youngsters grow and develop and reach full size after about a year.
The activity of earthworms is important to natural environments by:
aerating the soil
converting waste organic material to rich humus
producing worm casts which help to make minerals and nutrients available to the soil
providing a food source for animals higher up the food chain such as snakes, birds, and mammals such as hedgehogs, shrews, foxes and badgers.
In parts of Europe, it is now locally endangered due to predation by the New Zealand flatworm (Arthurdendyus triangulatus) and the Australian flatworm (Australoplana sanguinea), two predatory flatworms accidentally introduced from New Zealand and Australia. These predators are very efficient earthworm eaters.