Let’s talk about …worms!

Until I read the book, “The formation of vegetable mould: through the action of worms, with observations on their habitat” I would have overlooked the species. We are already aware that worms play a huge part in ecology for their place in the food chain, but let’s see the rest. . .

The book was written by Charles Darwin in 1881 and referred to in the text “The Healthy Hunzas” written in 1948 (page 42). The information supplied in both manuscripts appear well researched and scientifically before their time.

Probably one of the most underestimated species of our time, our noble species Lumbricus helps to construct nutritious and healthy soil that is essential for all plant growth.  This is historically noted through this book,
and others.

Here’s what the book, in 1881 documented.

The body of a worm consists of many muscular segments; the main organs are the mouth, pharynx, oesophagus, crop and gizzard that opens into the intestines.  Worms do not have any special respiratory organs, but are able to exchange air through their skin. They do not have eyes but are quite sensitive to light and are able to distinguish between day and
night.  Their nervous system is well developed and worms are extremely sensitive to any contact or touch.

Worms are omnivorous, swallowing enormous quantities of earth and digesting any nutrients that it might contain. They also consume semi rotting and fresh vegetable matter such as fallen leaves. They chose certain leaves to eat or to plug their burrows, dragging leaves by their petioles, lamina or stalks, depending on the leaf shape (showing some degree of intelligence).

Sited in the book, there is a calculation to every acre of land, there are 53,767 living worms. This number might exceed today’s figures – poor farming practices, pollution and climate change now effecting every organism on earth, the count is probably far less.  It was suggested in 1882, that annually, ten tonnes of earth passes through the bodies
of worms in one acre alone!  Worms prepare the ground in an excellent and efficient manner and it all happens beneath our feet.

On December 20th, 1842, a covering of broken chalk was spread on a
field which had been used for pasture for at least 30 years. The field was
revisited 29 years later and a cross sectional trench was dug through the (once submersed) area. The results showed that a line of white nodules, a depth of 7 inches from the surface was clearly visible. It was noted for anyone who remembered the appearance of the field at that time, the transformation was clear. This was observed to be the work of worms, the topsoil (superficial mould) eventually being passed through the bodies of worms, into the subsoil or ejected as surface castings.

“Archaeologists are probably not aware how much they owe to worms for their preservation of many ancient objects. Coins, gold and artefacts, if dropped on the surface of the ground, will be buried by the castings of worms in a few years, and will thus be safely preserved, until the land at some future time is turned up”.

Charles Darwin


Thanks, to a marvellous naturalist and scientist, Charles Darwin for this superb insight.

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