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EARTHWORMS; Cant we Live Without Them ?

QUEEN CLEOPATRA of Egypt declared them sacred. Aristotle called them the intestines of the earth. 

Charles Darwin felt that they played an important role in the history of the world. What animal earned the admiration of such famous people? THE HUMBLE EARTHWORM.

 I will describe them as the multipurpose natural equipment for agriculture and farmer’s best friend.
        
  As you will see, worms deserved to be admired. True, they are slimy and they wriggle. But even these qualities, which we might consider unattractive, can inspire a sense of awe once you get know the worm a little better. 


All you need to do is bending down and upturn a clod of soil or disturb a layer of leaf litter, and you have entered the fascinating world of worms.


SIMPLE BRAIN; ASTOUNDING TALENTS

Take a closer look at an earthworm and you will notice that its body is constructed of ringed segments that look like a row of miniature doughnuts bunched together. Each segment is powered by two groups of muscles. One group, just below the skin, forms a ring around the worm. 


Beneath this layer, the second group stretches along the worm. The worm moves by expanding and contracting these opposing muscle groups, flexing segment after segment in a rhythmic pulse that ripples down its body.

If you place an earthworm in your hands, no doubt it will writhe and wriggle. The worm reacts this way because its body is bristling with sense organs - as many as 1,900 on just one segment. These receptors give the worm a sense of touch, the capacity to taste and the ability to detect light.
The worm grips the soil with the aid of small, hairlike projections called setae. Each segment of the worm has sets of setae that act somewhat like the oars of a rowboat. The worm plunges the setae into the soil, pulls itself along, and then retracts them. 

The worm can “paddle” in either direction using one set of setae at a time or, if startled, can anchor one end of its body while rapidly retracting the other end. The athletic skill displayed in timing these “oar strokes” would make an Olympic rowing team envious.

If a bird nips off a worm’s tail segments, some species of worms simply regrow them but they never regrow more segments than those lost. It seems that each segment generates a tiny electrical charge and that worms regrow lost segments until a preset maximum charge is regained.

The thousands of sense organs and the complex muscle systems are all wired into the cerebral ganglion, located at the mouth end of the worm. Experiments have shown that in addition of their physical talents, worms have a limited capacity for memory and can learn to avoid danger.


HARNESSING WORM

The worm’s remarkable recycling powers are being harnessed by the waste disposal industry. One company in Australia makes use of a total of 500million worms in several waste processing plants. 


The worms are housed in specially designed beds and are served a menu of either pig manure or human waste mixed with shredded wastepaper and other organic matter. These worms consume between 50 and 100 percent of their body weight each day and produce a nutrient-rich plant food that is marketed widely.

          Studies have revealed another possible use for worms – as a source of food. Worms contain the same beneficial amino acids as beef. On a dry weight basis, they are packed with 60 percent protein and 10 percent fat and contain calcium and phosphorous. Already, in some countries, people eat earthworm pies. In other parts of the world, they fry earthworms or consume them raw.


          While worms may never become the most popular animals in the world, the world would certainly be a different place without them. So the next time you are fascinated by the beauty of nature or you admire a tranquil country scene, spare a thought for the army of earthworms that are beneath your feet, busy ploughing, fertilizing, aerating, mixing  ‘mother earth’-the soil – thereby providing suitable conditions for the maintenance of luxuriant vegetations.  
                                                                                                                    

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