Worms are elongated, soft-bodied invertebrates belonging to various phyla, including Annelida, Nematoda, and Platyhelminthes. These creatures, often devoid of limbs and complex structures, inhabit a wide range of environments from terrestrial soils to aquatic ecosystems. Worms play pivotal roles in their ecosystems, particularly in soil aeration and nutrient cycling, making them crucial for plant growth and soil health. Evolutionarily, worms are ancient, dating back over 500 million years, showcasing a successful and adaptable design. Their simplistic body plan has allowed them to thrive in diverse habitats, leading to a vast number of species with varying sizes, behaviors, and life cycles.
Worms are notable for their long, cylindrical bodies that lack rigid skeletons. Instead, many use hydrostatic pressure, with fluid-filled cavities providing structure. Earthworms, for example, move by contracting muscles and extending bristles called setae to grip the soil. Worms generally don't have eyes or ears like humans, but they can sense light and vibrations through their skin. Some, like the planarians, have simple eye spots to detect light intensity. They don't "speak," but communicate through chemicals or touch. Despite their simplicity, worms are incredibly efficient at digesting material, often through a tube-like gut that runs the length of their body.
Throughout history, humans have held a multifaceted relationship with worms. These creatures have been pivotal in agriculture, enriching soil and aiding composting. In science, worms, especially nematodes and planarians, have been crucial for genetic and regenerative studies due to their simplicity and quick reproduction. Cultural references abound, from the "Early bird gets the worm" adage to their appearances in literature and movies, often symbolizing decay or renewal.
Conservation efforts mainly focus on maintaining healthy soil ecosystems, crucial for preserving earthworm populations. Recognizing their ecological value, initiatives aim to protect their habitats from pollution, overfarming, and climate change.
Worms are able to eat their body weight every day and tend to eat their food as it starts to decompose. A worm’s diet typically consists of dead plants, some living plants, dead animals, animal feces, bacteria, fungi, and microscopic worms.
Worms have both male and female sexual organs making them hermaphrodites. Worms are able to reproduce by lining themselves up at their heads and attaching themselves at the clitella. A cocoon is then formed at the clitella band. Each cocoon has 1 to 5 worms, and will hatch when the conditions are right.
Worms breathe oxygen by absorbing it through its skin. While raining, soil may get too much rain and oxygen in the soil will run out. This causes worms to come out when it rains. Worms are only safe above ground when it is dark, since they run the chance of being eaten by a bird, or being killed by the sun.