Early birds aren’t the only creatures who get the worms. On this Moment of Science, we discuss another earthworm predator.
Land planarians, otherwise known as flat worms, are carnivorous, cannibalistic, and slimy. They are the most heartless predators to the earthworm. Earthworms are good for soil; they recycle nutrients and support the soil structure so that rain water soaks into the soil rather than running off.
Over the past few decades, the earthworm population has severely decreased. Since the New Zealand flatworm accidentally made its way to the British Isles in 1963, it has wreaked havoc on some of the land, devouring fields of earthworms. In the British Isles, earthworm numbers are drastically declining. The flatworm has ruined the livelihood of farmers who rely on that land.
When hunting the earthworm, the flatworm wraps around the earthworm and secretes enzymes that digest the victim outside of the flatworm’s body. Then the flatworm sucks up the earthworm, much like a soup.