The (literally) garden variety earthworm can elicit quite a reaction from some people. Without features—no eyes or nose or ears–it’s essentially a little sticky tube sock made of muscle, which inches its way forward one full-body undulation at a time, displaying a primitive kind of life that’s simple, and yet somehow, also pretty gross. But despite any strange feelings earthworms may inspire, at least the little organic matter-munching soil dwellers never grow to be four-foot-long monsters that gurgle through the ground and are rightfully described as something like “boa constrictors in earthworm suits.”
Oh wait. The Amazon jungle is a thing.
Yes, it turns out that worms don’t just grow to be large, or even huge. Good ol’ natural selection made them giant. And Phil Torres, an entomologist and science communicator, recently found a four-foot-long specimen of the rare breed of worm—one species of which has the Latin name Martiodrilus crassus or “worm that feeds on dogs”—while he was cruising through the Amazon jungle in Ecuador.
“It had a surprisingly similar feel to the earthworms I dig up in my yard,” Torres is reported as saying, “It felt like a long, slimy, ridged muscle. It seems like it is 90% muscle, 9% dirt, 1% nervous system. If I were starving out there, I might be tempted to cook it…”
And while Torres may be willing to eat the giant worms, their diet, like that of their smaller, equally wiggly relatives, is made up of microbes and decaying plant or animal matter in the soil. This basic sustenance still allows them to grow to be about five-feet long however (with the ones in Australia sometimes reaching double that length).
The giant earthworms, with their “beautiful purple-blue” iridescent skin and tiny setae (the little bristles on their undersides that help them dig), aren’t only a sight to behold, however. They also gurgle through the soil as they move, making sounds like a hungry stomach or pool water sloshing into a filter. Sir David Attenborough, whose name recently supplanted that of Boaty McBoatface on a British research ship (RIP Boaty McBoatface), elaborates on the gurgles, and the giant earthworms in general, below:
What do you think about this giant four-foot-long earthworm? Would you go face to face with an exogorth of the Amazon like Torres did? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Images: Phil Torres