Isn’t the internet wonderful?
This morning on our walk, Diego and I came across what I thought was an earthworm, but there was something on its head. Upon closer examination, I discovered that the something WAS its head, a flattened little bill. It wasn’t an earthworm, it had stripes running its length like a snake.
Well, one quick search on Google for “flat headed worm” got me the answer: it was a Bipalium
kewense, a “land planarian” or “worm killer” (as they eat earthworms can can decimate a population and thus cause soil problems).
The land planarian Bipalium kewense Moseley was first described from a greenhouse at Kew Botanical Gardens near London, England, in 1878. This species is believed to be native to Indo-China, and has been found commonly in American greenhouses since 1901.
They have been detected in natural habitats in Florida, Louisiana, and most recently in Georgia, Texas, North and South Carolina and southern California.
And now, northern California.
Now, for the gross part:
Land planarians are soft, bilaterally symmetric, acoelomate, dorsally-ventrally flattened worms, 3 to 50 cm long by 0.2 to 0.5 cm wide. They lack a respiratory and circulatory system, a skeleton, and an anus. Heads of many land planarians are expanded lunate or tapering to a blunt point. Eyespots may be present on the head. Colors of Florida species range from greenish-grey to brown with dark narrow stripes on the dorsal side. A mouth, which also serves as an anus, is present near mid-body on the ventral surface. A protrusible muscular plicate pharynx serves as a feeding organ and is attached to a three-branched intestine. The space between organs is filled with parenchyma. Circular and longitudinal muscles are present. A cerebral ganglion serves as a brain, innervating a ladder-shaped nervous system. Excretion of fluid wastes is accomplished with a primitive proto-nephridial system (Esser 1981).
Gives a new meaning to “potty mouth.”
Now that I’ve read about it, most gardening experts say to destroy it immediately, as it will kill all the earthworms in the area. I’m not a fan of killing things, even slimy worms; in any case, it’s long gone from where I saw it 3 hours ago.
And it’s one of those creepy crawly creatures that, if you cut it into bits, grows back and then becomes MORE creatures.