Environment

Giant earthworm found at the foot of Western Ghats

K.S. Sreepada, professor of Applied Zoology at Mangalore University, with the giant earthworm found in Dakshina Kannada district earlier this year.   | Photo Credit: Raviprasad Kamila

Farmworkers in the land belonging to Gopalakrishna Katta in Kollamogaru village, near Kukke Subrahmanya, were taken aback when they saw a “snake-like creature” while removing soil for roadwork in January. Assuming it was a snake, they rushed to the landowner’s house to inform him.

But little did the workers realise that they had found a giant earthworm, measuring over three feet in length, which has not been reported in the Western Ghats and the coastal belt of Karnataka so far. The landowner’s son, Nishant Katta, a postgraduate in Applied Zoology, told them that it was not a snake but an earthworm.

Surprised and excited, Mr. Katta called up K.S. Sreepada, professor of Applied Zoology, Mangalore University, and Vivek Hasyagar, a research scholar in the same department, for further studies. Both are members of a research team on earthworms at the university. Now, the earthworm has been preserved in chemical solutions at the laboratory of the department at the Mangalagangotri campus of the university. Prof. Sreepada told The Hindu that this was the first time such a large earthworm had been sighted in the Western Ghats and the coastal belt. “We are studying it,” he said.

Mr. Hasyagar said that when stretched, the earthworm measures 950 mm (more than 3 feet) and is 20 mm in width. He said that in India, J.M. Julka (2008) had reported the largest earthworm — Drawida nilamburensis, which belongs to the Moniligastridae family. That specimen, from the Nilgiris, measured up to 1,000 mm in length.

Prof. Sreepada said morphological study of the newly discovered earthworm has tentatively indicated that it belongs to the genus of Moniligaster. “We have not studied its internal structures as it has been preserved now. Hence, the species has not been identified,” he said. He said if internal structures are to be studied, the department would need another earthworm of the same size or category for dissection purposes.

Mr. Nishant said he had found a similar type of giant worm in the same area about 10 years ago when he was in class 8. “I too had believed it to be a snake,” he said.

Mr. Sreepada said the giant earthworms begin migrating at night during the pre-monsoon and post-monsoon periods. The sighting of the giant earthworm in Kollamogaru calls for deeper study from different angles, including the landslips in Kodagu this year and last, he said.

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Printable version | Mar 8, 2021 3:02:27 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/giant-earthworm-found-at-the-foot-of-western-ghats/article29493954.ece

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