Earthworms eat seeds and seedlings, scientists have found.

The discovery they eat live rather than just dead plants will change the way we think about earthworms, which had been thought to benefit plants by recycling soil nutrients.

Earthworms eat live rather than just dead plants

Earthworms eat live rather than just dead plants

It may offer a way for gardeners and farmers to encourage more earthworms into their soil, for example.

But it also means invasive earthworms could be reducing populations of plants in once pristine soils.

Confirmation that earthworms feed on living plants is published in the journal Soil Biology and Biochemistry by Dr Nico Eisenhauer of the Georg-August-University Göttingen in Germany.

With colleagues, Dr Eisenhauer made the discovery studying the behaviour of Lumbricus terrestris, an anecic earthworm that inhabits soils around the world.

Originating in Europe, the worm occurs in grasslands, agricultural fields and forests and is invading soils across the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Previous studies have shown that some earthworms will swallow plant seeds, while others appear to collect seeds, burying them in their burrows.

But it was not clear why, whether the earthworms were actually seeking rotting seeds, or whether they derived any nutritional benefit from the habit.

So Dr Eisenhauer set up a series of experiments to find out, offering earthworms housed in the lab a selection of food, including seeds and seedlings from different plant species.

The results were startling.

The earthworms selectively fed on slow-germinating, nitrogen-rich seeds and seedlings, actively ingesting the plant material, killing the young plant.

Earthworms allowed to feed on live plants gained weight, and their performance would vary depending on what plants they were offered, such as legumes or grasses, suggesting they do derive nutritional benefits from such a diet.

Source: BBC [link].
Related Links: Soil Biology and Biochemistry.

Written by CW Staff

In the late 80s I started investigating UFOs and crop circles and joined the CCCS (Centre for Crop Circle Studies) and a local group researching strange sightings and reports along the south coast of Dorset (UK). In the early ’90s I started my own research group called SPS (Strange Phenomena Studies), this was renamed in 2004 to Cryptoworld.

This article has 1 comment

  1. Jack Davey

    Guess what ? put a worm in a box and give it nothing but live seeds/plants to eat and surprise, surprise, the worms will eat it!

    What about the 20 years research and observations that Charles Darwin made?

    Serious research has shown that after the last ice age, it was the earthworms that created the fertile deltas in the Middle East where our civilisations began. They were realised to be so important to the fertility of the soil in ancient Egypt, that the Pharoh’s made laws to protect them.

    So, what do we practice?, deep ploughing by heavy machinery that destroys the worms and the soil’s structure, and then douse it in chemicals for good measure, like a big piece of blotting paper. Result? dead worms and a 30% reduction across the board in the vitamins and micro nutrients in our vegetables since the end of world war ll.

    If you really want to do something useful, build a wormery and feed them your kitchen waste.
    It will reduce the rubbish you have to pay someone to take away. Reduce landfill sites. Give you a wonderful natural fertiliser and liquid feed for your plants and you will not have to worry about some crackpot idea that the worms are eating your “live” plant & seeds.