Saturday, 16 April 2016

Massive rainbow worm emergence

I woke up early this morning and went for a walk around the park. It was cold and it had rained a lot in the night. I had to watch my step as there were hundreds of blue-grey worms, Octolasion cyaneum, on the pavements and ground. This is a very colourful and common earthworm species, easily recognised by its yellow tail end and its orange clitellum (the central raised band) when adult. They are sluggish, live in topsoil and commonly emerge in large numbers after rain. Some individuals were the largest I've ever seen, over 26 cm! (bottom shot), although around 15 cm was much more common. I was surprised there weren't more blackbirds and thrushes feeding on this worm bonanza! Why do they come up in the rain? Reproduction can be ruled out as this species is parthenogenetic, that is, they can reproduce on their own, producing genetically identical offspring. Populations have little diversity and are made or clonal lines. Adult worms lay cocoons in the soil that contain singletons or twins.
More information
Lowe, Christopher N., and Kevin R. Butt. Life cycle traits of the parthenogenetic earthworm Octolasion cyaneum (Savigny, 1826). European Journal of Soil Biology 44.5 (2008): 541-544.

2 comments:

Midmarsh John said...

Part of my garden is under water. Mrs Blackbird has spent the day paddling and flying off with beaks full of small worms.

Africa Gómez said...

I hope there is no permanent damage. The lawns at the local park are also largely flooded. Good to hear Mrs Blackbird is taking advantage of it!