Zooillogix

Giant Blue Earthworms and Friends

Via a circuitous route, prompted by a friend of Zooillogix, Tweet Gainsborough-waring, I found myself looking at the picture below.
i-f427904069c377ce92d6e964a7954bce-GiantBlueEarthworm.jpg

This otherworldly Australian earthworm, Terriswalkeris terraereginae, not only looks likes delicious candy, but the mucin it releases is luminescent, and it grows up to 2 meters long. I knew Zooillogix readers would want to know more about this fascinating critter but could find almost no information online. Luckily, Dr. Geoff Dyne, Assistant Director, Queensland Section, Australian Government Natural Research Management Team (and more importantly, earthwormologist), generously provided me with the following information about Australia’s formidable Oligochaetes.

Courtesy of Dr. Dyne:

Australia is home to some of the largest earthworms in the world. This little-known zoological morsel is easily overlooked when one considers the more charismatic elements of the fauna that usually rate a mention – such as koalas and kangaroos.

Size is relative, of course; when we think of large earthworms (or terrestrial Oligochaetes), we are perhaps considering species growing in excess of 30cm or one foot or so in length. In Australia, all of these species belong to the Family Megascolecidae.

Some of these earthworms are associated with upland areas of rainforest growing on volcanic soils, such as Terriswalkeris terraereginae, found in the mountains behind Cairns in Far North Queensland. This large species is all the more striking for being a deep Prussian blue. Rarely seen, it (together with a number of the other deep-burrowing species) is occasionally exposed by road-building machinery or when heavy rain saturates the soil and forces individuals out of their burrows.

Another unusual large earthworm is Digaster keasti, known from the great sandy region in southeast Queensland, which includes Fraser Island, the world’s largest sand island. It has become adapted to what would usually be regarded as a somewhat precarious, if not impossible, habitat for an earthworm – podsolised sand. These extensive sand soils are subject to desiccation in their upper layers but contain just enough humic material and deep moisture to support the existence of these remarkable animals. Digaster keasti is also bioluminescent – an interesting phenomenon exhibited by other earthworms species and which is worthy of a separate article.

The Grand-daddy of these overachieving oligochaetes is the Giant Gippsland earthworm, Megascolides australis, found in clayey soils under the banks of streams and in south or west facing hills in the Gippsland region of eastern Victoria (south-eastern Australia).
i-8eb26195c91d6fd3042a735d4708c8b0-giant gippsland earthworm.jpg
She named this big one “Bitey”

It commonly reaches a length of about 2 to 3 metres (6.5 to 10 feet), and is about 2cm (0.8 inches) in diameter when extended. The biggest specimen recorded by the National Museum of Victoria is…

(more below the fold)

…nearly 4 metres (13 feet) long. The small town of Korumburra, which is near the epicentre of the occurrence of M. australis, celebrates its unique faunal asset with an annual worm festival called Karmai (the local Aboriginal name for the species). It is reputed that when in close proximity to these animals, one can detect faint gurgling noises as they move through their burrows.

Megascolides australis also has the dubious honour of being the only earthworm to be listed under Australian national threatened species legislation, largely because of its very restricted distribution.

A few final thoughts and questions from Zooillogix:

Does anyone know if the luminescence is chemical or bacterial? (note – this was Kevin Z’s first question after he got done crying over my breaking the story on this badboy).

Does anyone have a picture of Digaster keasti?

Is nuking Australia from orbit the only way to be sure?

Would love to have other earthwormologists weigh-in on these new media darlings.

Special thanks to Dr. Geoff Dyne for providing us with this fascinating information.

Comments

  1. #1 Sigmund
    May 22, 2008

    Bitey?
    It bites?

  2. #2 Evan
    May 22, 2008

    Tremors is for reals!

  3. #3 tai haku
    May 22, 2008

    Home worm-composting would surely be so much more popular with a pair of cute luminescent blue monster worms rather than loads of little ones. These things could save the earth!

  4. #4 Emily O.
    May 22, 2008

    …Ew.

  5. #5 Dave Hone
    May 22, 2008

    Sigmund: It’s from the Simpsons where Homer ends up driving the monorail and finds possums in the fair extinguisher cabinet…

  6. #6 Zelly
    May 24, 2008

    I visited Fraser Island a few years ago…..didn’t see any giant earthworms though, (un?)fortunately.

  7. #7 Eric
    May 24, 2008

    So when do we get the (briefly alluded to) follow up post from the most excellent Dr. Geoff Dyne? Looks like Kevins question would have it’s answer there and so many other questions…yes?

  8. #8 bug_girl
    May 24, 2008

    Very cool!

  9. #9 Liesele
    May 27, 2008

    My 9 year old has always been afraid of worms (we’re not even allowed to say the word; we’re supposed to refer to them as “w”s), and no one in the family ever understood why. I’ll have to make sure his sibs see this. Too cool…and yet gross at the same time. Imagine glow-in-the-dark compost.

  10. #10 David Marjanovi?
    May 27, 2008

    You do know you can use italics, right?

    HTML code: <i>text</igt;
    Result: text

  11. #11 Wendy Geise
    June 3, 2008

    These are some SERIOUS earthworms. That blue color is amazing.

  12. #12 kevin towler
    July 17, 2008

    Imagine the size of the wormery for the big worm or the blue worm, saying that think how much compost you would get and how much waste you would need to a few happy.

  13. #13 shaun B
    January 26, 2009

    Dude that blue worm does look like a gummy worm but i wuldn’t eat it. just thinkin bout it makes me wanna barf. I will never look @ blue gummy worms the same again lolz

  14. #14 Erik Meijaard
    February 25, 2009

    Does anyone have the contact details for Dr. Dyne. I can’t find anything on him. My field staff dug up a giant earth worm in a lowland forest area in Borneo and I would like to know what it is.

  15. #15 Molly H.
    March 12, 2009

    EWWWWWWW

  16. #16 Terry Bareham
    March 23, 2009

    I lived inland from Sarina, Queensland for some years and came across giant earthworms on my plot of land, they were a grey/fawn colour and when dug up they did,nt appear to have much life in them, and were quite limp. Does anyone know what type these are?

  17. #17 Hannah Houston
    March 25, 2009

    I wonder if their castings are blue to…

  18. #18 neon
    April 2, 2009

    the ımagine size of the wormery for the big worm or the blue worm, saying that think how much compost you would get and how much waste you would need to a few happy.weee…

  19. #19 poozitif
    April 29, 2009

    ııIIııı.. İrenc… OMG :|

  20. #20 alexander mayorga
    June 2, 2009

    I am an architect based in south america i am currently composing a book based on insects. It’a a conceptual book based on multiple insects that we leave with and co-exist and they some how leave of us as parasites, the first example is the flea house. I will be posting this on my website soon I am almost done with it. I once encounter a doctor that told me that we have warms that reside in our intestens can anyone help me with samples and pictures or references that i can look into.
    thanks

  21. #21 Captain Skellett
    July 27, 2009

    I’m an Australian girl, and I ain’t never seen a big-ass earthworm like that! Very cool, I read something about them in New Scientist just the other day and might do a blog post about them myself. :)

  22. #22 michael bouwman
    September 14, 2009

    When I was a small kid in the late ’60s, there were very long, pale (white?), earthworms in the soggy ground near my cousin’s place at Shorncliffe Brisbane, maybe 2 feet long, and as thick as your finger. like the one above. I have never seen them since, but they were not your common garden variety. They looked like the Gippsland worm Megascolides. Did I dream it?

  23. #23 JARED MORLEY
    October 20, 2009

    jfbdhyilcfsdjasgfysdhfgsdhfbgvhjGFsdyafgturyuarqw7e243qwgczhsfg38275tghfsditr7834578234qoreiow;hCZXjkg*so

  24. #24 shankerappa s hatti
    November 18, 2009

    i am hery much surprised to see such a big earthworm existing on the earth.

    it is interesting to know about the food what they eat,and there are may be the existance of predators of this worms,

  25. #25 narelle parker
    January 18, 2010

    Hi I found what I think is a giant blue earthworm in the hills behind Byron Bay, is that somewhere it should be?

  26. #26 Napalmnacey
    January 23, 2010

    Mmmmmmmmm … SHAI HULUD!

  27. #27 sikiş
    January 23, 2010

    it is interesting to know about the food what they eat,and there are may be the existance of predators of this worms,

  28. #28 mzthang
    March 8, 2010

    uuugh that is fucin grossed out and the lady is nutts
    lolss

  29. #29 Alex Anderson
    March 30, 2010

    Hi there,
    Thanks for the info, though the genus for the giant blue worm is actually spelled “Terriswalkerius” (Jamieson, 1994, memoirs of the queensland museum). A small difference, but it may help others who search for further info.
    Cheers

  30. #30 Tony Harper
    April 28, 2010

    Hi Michael Bouwman – I remember seeing some of these fellas down near the Kangaroo Point ferry in Brisbane. It was late 50’s following some torrential rain. Very impressive.

  31. #31 Ngawarra
    May 1, 2010

    Terriswalkeris terraereginae is a very interesting creature. Before European settlers arrived, my ancestors used catch Terriswalkeris terraereginae in order to make blue dye for trading with the Maori people of New Zealand (who used it to colour their faces blue).

    As well, Terriswalkeris terraereginae is very tasty, but it must be carefully cooked because the head of the creature is very poisonous. You must remove the head before cooking. Only a couple of minutes is needed.

  32. #32 anon
    May 19, 2010

    does anyone know if this is for real? why are there no sources cited if so?

  33. #33 seks izle
    June 30, 2010

    When I was a small kid in the late ’60s, there were very long, pale (white?), earthworms in the soggy ground near my cousin’s place at Shorncliffe Brisbane, maybe 2 feet long, and as thick as your finger. like the one above. I have never seen them since, but they were not your common garden variety. They looked like the Gippsland worm Megascolides. Did I dream it?

  34. #34 tuncay
    August 3, 2010

    The only animal in the world is not like a snake away from me whether they

  35. #35 seksi
    September 13, 2010

    real photo :S :S

  36. #36 porno
    September 29, 2010

    I hope it is enough to satisfy the people who read this description. I think everyone enjoys quite a wide audience adoption. Thank you my friend

  37. #37 porno izle
    October 6, 2010

    Hi I found what I think is a giant blue earthworm in the hills behind Byron Bay, is that somewhere it should be?

  38. #38 porno
    October 26, 2010

    it is interesting to know .
    I hope it is enough to satisfy the people who read this description.

  39. #39 ISMEK KURSLARI
    November 16, 2010

    I do not like snakes at all scares me to even see a picture of a very cold animals

  40. #40 lucky
    November 27, 2010

    I am so impress earthworm picture and i am like it earthworm i know that it is a impotant animal of earth

  41. #41 Langırt
    December 24, 2010

    I hope it is enough to satisfy the people who read this description. I think everyone enjoys quite a wide audience adoption. Thank you my friend

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