AN  EARTHWORM  A  DAY  KEEPS...

MANILA,
APRIL 30, 2007
 (STAR) By Helen Flores - There’s noni juice and mangosteen juice. Now there’s earthworm juice, recommended as a cure for high blood pressure and other health problems.

Dr. Rafael Guerero III, executive director of the Philippine Council for Aquatic and Marine Research and Development (PCAMRD), said there are enzymes in the tissue of the earthworms that can dissolve blood clot.

A study conducted by a professor at the University of the Philippines-Visayas also found that native earthworms have been used for folkloric healing by "quack doctors" specifically in Bukidnon to heal stomach problems, labor pain, measles, and fever.

The earthworms are prepared as a drink to patients, it said.

A foreign study also revealed that alcoholic extract from tissues of earthworm – eisenia fetida or red worm - has been found in clinical trial to be effective for the treatment of shotty breast wherein one teaspoonful of the preparation is mixed with 50 millimeters of boiled water for three weeks.

Guerero also said earthworms are edible as long as they are found in clean places.

Earthworms contain 65 percent protein which is good for the body, he said.

The PCAMRD is an attached agency of the Department of Science and Technology.

SEGMENTED  WORMS IN GENERAL (Source: http://www.backyardnature.net/worms.htm)

On the Segmented Worm Page the point is made that if an interplanetary naturalist should visit Earth studying life here, he, she or it might choose annelids, or segmented worms, as "average Earth animals." That's because in terms of animal complexity about half of all animal species on Earth are less complex than segmented worms, while about half are more complex. Of course we humans are the most complex. With regard to earthworms, one point for backyard naturalists to keep in mind is that earthworms are by no means "average Earth annelids." As the picture of an earthworm head (or is it a tail... ?) at the right makes clear, among the annelids, earthworms are very special because they are super-streamlined, stripped-down, no-nonsense, fairly highly evolved critters.

For instance, the front ends of "average annelids" such as those found in the oceans generally bear mouthparts, eyes, and antennae-like structures. On the other end there may be another set of antenna-like projections, and, in between, each segment may bear a pair of foot-like appendages. Earthworms bear none of these typical annelid accessories. In fact, earthworms, at first glance, appear to be no more than long, segmented cylinders tapering to both ends.

ARE EARTHWORMS IMPORTANT?

Certainly what earthworms do isn't simple in ecological terms. The great naturalist Charles Darwin, after making a careful study of them, wrote this:

"...it may be doubted if there are any other animals which have played such an important part in the history of the world as these lowly organized creatures."

"History of the world," he said!

EARTHWORM IDENTIFICATION

To use or download an online identification key for earthworms, click here. To access an online field guide to earthworms, click here.

One important thing that earthworms do is to plow the soil by tunneling through it. Their tunnels provide the soil with passageways through which air and water can circulate, and that's important because soil microorganisms and plant roots need air and water just like we do. Without some kind of plowing, soil becomes compacted, air and water can't circulate in it, and plant roots can't penetrate it.

One study showed that each year on an acre (0.4 hectare) of average cultivated land, 16,000 pounds (7200 kg) of soil pass through earthworm guts and are deposited atop the soil -- 30,000 pounds (13,500 kg) in really wormy soil! Charles Darwin himself calculated that if all the worm excreta resulting from ten years of worm work on one acre of soil were spread over that acre, it would be two inches thick (5.08 cm).

This is something we should appreciate because earthworm droppings -- called castings when deposited atop the ground -- are rich in nitrogen, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus, and these are all important nutrients for healthy, prospering ecosystems. In your own backyard you might be able to confirm that grass around earthworm burrows grows taller and greener than grass just inches away.

HOW DO EARTHWORMS TRAVEL?

The secret to earthworm travel lies in two things you can't see just by looking.

* Though earthworms have no bones, their complex system of muscles enables them to not only wiggle like crazy but also to very quickly alternate between being stubby and thick, and long and slender

* Earthworms possess tiny, practically invisible bristles, called setae (pronounced SEE-tee; singular form seta, pronounced SEE-tah), which usually are held inside their bodies. When the worms want to stay in their burrows, they jab their setae into the surrounding dirt, thus anchoring themselves in place. This comes in handy if a bird nabs a worm's head and tries to pull the worm from its burrow. The setae anchor the worm so well that it may break before coming out.

Here's how these two features enable earthworms to travel:

Let's say that a worm in its burrow wants to move forward. First, using its complex musculature, it makes itself long. Then it anchors the front of its body by sticking its front setae into the soil. Now it pulls its rear end forward, making itself short and thick. Once the rear end is in place, the front setae are withdrawn from the soil, but setae on the rear end are stuck out, anchoring the rear end. Now the front end is free to shoot forward in the burrow as the worm makes itself long and slender. Then the whole process is repeated. (Source: http://www.backyardnature.net/earthwrm.htm)


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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