Bonnie has taught at the elementary and middle school level and has a master's degree in Child and Family Studies.
Earthworms are Good for the Earth
Earthworms are the slimy, pink, wiggly worms you commonly see in the driveway or pavement after a big rainstorm. Many people use them as fishing bait, but the common earthworm is actually very important for the health of our environment.
Earthworms live in the ground and wiggle through the dirt making tunnels. These tunnels allow water, air, and nutrients to travel through the soil. Earthworms also eat the soil, which consists of organic material such as decaying leaves, animals, and plants. The worms digest this material and release it back into the ground. This material, known as castings, is a nutrient-rich food source that plants absorb to grow healthily. Other animals, including people, can eat these healthy plants. So you see, earthworms provide us with food!
Earthworms Have Many Functions
Earthworms are about seven to eight centimeters long. They look like small, simple creatures, but they actually do a lot of the things we do: they move, digest food, circulate blood, breathe, and reproduce.
If you ever peer closely at an earthworm you will see its body is made up of about 100 to 150 circular bands, or segments called annuli. Each segment has small, stiff hairs, which helps the earthworm move.
The digestive system includes the body parts to break down the food an animal eats. The first segment on an earthworm includes its mouth, but it has no teeth. So how does the worm chew its food? When the earthworm swallows its meal, the food makes its way to the gizzard. Tiny stones that were eaten by the worm churn in the gizzard to break down the food.
The circulatory system is important because it carries important nutrients and oxygen that the worm needs through the bloodstream. Blood travels in tiny vessels. There are five aortic arches, which are like tiny hearts that pump blood into the vessels to travel throughout the worm's body. This process delivers the nutrients the worm needs to live.
So far, earthworms are kind of like us: they eat food and digest it, and they also have blood pumping through their bodies like us. Earthworms also need to breathe, but unlike us, they don't have lungs - they breathe through their skin. This way they can get air when they're under the ground.
Here is another way earthworms are NOT like us: they are neither male or female. They are both! Two earthworms mate by joining together and forming cocoons. Each worm deposits sperm and an egg into their cocoon and then back out of it. Each cocoon can contain one to five baby worms. The baby worms hatch out of the cocoon when soil conditions are good for their survival. They may even wait for years to come out!
Earthworms are important because they are good for the environment. Their annuli allow them to move through the earth, bringing oxygen and other nutrients down into the soil. Earthworms have no lungs, so they breathe through their skin.
The earthworm's gizzard breaks up organic matter from the ground and turns it into healthy soil that plants can grow in. These plants become food for other animals, including people. Earthworms are both male and female, and they mate by joining together and forming cocoons.
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