Two living specimens of the fabled giant Palouse earthworm have been captured for the first time in two decades in what represents a significant discovery of a creature that has achieved a mythic status in the area.
The giant Palouse earthworm has fascinated scientists for decades after long being written off as an extinct creature. Reports suggested that the worms had a penchant for spitting and smelled like lilies, further enhancing the myth of the earthworm in the agricultural Palouse region on the Washington-Idaho border.
“It’s a good day for the worm,” said University of Idaho soil scientist Jodi Johnson-Maynard in Moscow, Idaho, who has been leading the search
The recent discovery of the worms appeared to dispel the myth about the creature’s appearance. They don’t spit, or smell like lilies, and aren’t even that giant.
“One of my colleagues suggested we rename it the ‘larger-than average Palouse earthworm,’” Johnson-Maynard said when the find was announced Tuesday.
While they had been thought to grow to 3 feet long, the adult worm measured about 10 or 12 inches fully extended, while the juvenile was 6 or 7 inches.
The worms were translucent, allowing internal organs to appear. They had pink heads and bulbous tails. The adult had a yellowish band behind the head.
The specimens were found March 27 by Shan Xu, an Idaho student, and Karl Umiker, a research support scientist. They also found three earthworm cocoons, two of which have hatched and appear to also be giant Palouse earthworms.
The Palouse earthworm was first reported to the scientific world in an 1897 article in The American Naturalist by Frank Smith. Smith’s work was based on four samples sent to him by R.W. Doane of Washington State University in Pullman.
Source: Associated Press
Posted by Russell Nemetz
Picture Courtesy of Associated Press