Giant Gippsland earthworm
|Giant Gippsland earthworm|
The giant Gippsland earthworm, Megascolides australis, is one of Australia's 1,000 native earthworm species. These Giant earthworms average 1 metre (3 feet) long and 2 cm (1 inch) in diameter and can reach 3 m in length. They have a dark purple head and a blue-grey body.
These worms live in deep burrow systems and require water in their environment to respire. These worms rarely leave their moist burrows. They have relatively long life spans for invertebrates and can take 5 years to reach maturity. They breed in the warmer months and produce large egg cocoons which are laid in their burrows. When these worms hatch in 12 months they are already 20 cm long.
Unlike most earthworms which deposit castings on the surface, they spend almost all their time in burrows and deposit their castings there. Their movements through the underground burrows can cause an audible gurgling or sucking sound which allows them to be detected.
Located near the town of Bass is the Giant Earthworm Museum. This building allows tourists to crawl through a magnified replica of a worm burrow and a simulated worm's stomach. Displays and educational material on the Giant Gippsland earthworm and other natural history of Gippsland are featured.
As with many of Australia’s native species, European colonisation has resulted in the decline of the Giant Gippsland earthworm and they are now a protected species. Some farmers in the area have stopped raising cattle and have begun planting crops. When the farmers till the ground many of the worms are severed, and some scientists believe that worms are killed as a result of the tilling. Thus, the giant Gippsland earthworm is in danger of becoming extinct.
- Giant Palouse earthworm - A vulnerable North American species.
- Oregon giant earthworm - A relative of the Palouse earthworm. Specimens have been recorded at 1.3 m (4 feet) long.
- Lake Pedder earthworm - Listed as the first "extinct" worm species from its original unique Tasmanian habitat.
- Lumbricus badensis - Giant (Badish) earthworm.
- Microchaetus rappi - Giant South African earthworm.
- Diversity of Soil Fauna and Ecosystem Function, Biology International. Retrieved on October 23, 2008.
- Action Statement: Giant Gippsland Earthworm. Retrieved on July 23, 2012.
- Victoria Resources Online: Giant Gippsland Earthworm. Retrieved on July 23, 2012.
- World Conservation Monitoring Centre (1996). Megascolides australis. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved on 11 May 2006. Listed as Vulnerable (VU D2 v2.3)