11 May, 2010

Ugly animals that I for some reason love, continued.

A herd of earthworms Eisenia fetida
"In experiments, I noticed that earthworms frequently clustered and formed
a compact patch when they were out of the soil," Zirbes told the BBC.

I spent like fifteen minutes trying to figure out how to capitalize the title sentence before giving up.

So I doubt anyone thinks of earthworms as social or intelligent creatures, because they are ugly and drown in puddles more frequently than other creatures, but I still really like them.

So does Lara Zirbes at the University of Liege in Belgium. For her PhD dissertation, she conducted a series of studies to determine whether earthworms demonstrate herd behavior. She rigged up a bunch of mazes and sent earthworms through them, and it turns out that they do! Apparently earthworms communicate through touch and prefer to travel in groups.

When placed in a chamber together, worms will follow the same path. Unlike ants and other social insects, worms communicate using direct physical contact rather than pheromone trails. Which means they try to touch each other with as much of their bodies as possible to mazimize communication.

I'm not sure why exactly but to me that is so beautiful.


Gordon said...

I went to a seminar recently in which the speaker mentioned an experiment he'd done with a bucket of soil - half with some sort of silver in it, and half clean. The silver can be toxic to earthworms. He put a bunch of worms on top of the toxic side of the bucket. None of them even started to burrow - they just went straight to the clean side and, as soon as they hit it, immediately burrowed.

sarah said...

I found a giant snail on my backporch last night and ran inside to get Natasha to look at it with me. It was pouring rain but we just sat and stared at it for a good five minutes.
I totally understand your thing for weird animals and I love that earthworms communicate through touch! Who knew? (Lara Zirbes knew.)
Also: I laughed out loud at this:
they are ugly and drown in puddles more frequently than other creatures, but I still really like them
(sorry my comment wasn't as scientific as Gordon's, but are we really all that surprised?)

Austin said...

it is beautiful. yes, it is.

eden said...

that's cool. i've never really thought about it, but i guess i like earthworms too.

i frequently move them from the sidewalk onto the grass when the sun is out and starting to roast them. and i always worry that i'm putting them in the grass that they came from and aren't trying to move too... then i feel bad. but at least they're still alive.