Earthworms are animals with smooth skin and a body made of many small segments. There are more than 7000 different kinds of earthworms. They live in most temperate and tropical soils around the world. Earthworms range in size from 2.5 cm to 1.8 m (from 1 in to 5.9 ft). That’s taller than most people! And that’s tiny compared to the the world’s longest earthworm, the South African giant earthworm. In 1967, people found an African giant earthworm that was 6.7 meters (21 ft) long. That’s longer than most crocodiles!
Earthworms aren’t picky eaters. They eat mouthfuls of soil containing bits of rotting plant leaves and roots. Because earthworms eat dead plants, they are called decomposers. If earthworms disappeared, all the dead plants would just pile up on the ground. Luckily, earthworms are hungry animals and can eat their own bodyweight each day. Plants need nutrients to grow. Dead leaves are full of nutrients, but plants are unable to absorb nutrients directly from the dead leaves.
Earthworms make a special poop called worm castings. And plants can absorb nutrients from worm casting! Worm castings are actually one of the best fertilizers for soil. If earthworms disappeared, the soil would have fewer nutrients and it would be difficult to grow plants including fruits and vegetables. This would lead to people going hungry around the world.
Find out what else would happen without worms in this world in the episode above!