The continent’s long isolation has given rise to an incredibly unique diversity of life that, yes, includes some extremely lethal critters. But perhaps its most remarkable creature is a gentle, extremely delicate colossus few have had the privilege of glimpsing: the giant Gippsland earthworm, which can grow to some 6 feet long. Give it a stretch–(only if it’s already dead) –and it can easily double in length.
These elusive monsters have been known to science only since the late 1800s, when workers unearthed a specimen while surveying a rail line. Mistaking it for a snake, with great care they took it to a professor at the University of Melbourne, who I hope informed them that snakes generally have, you know, teeth and scales and stuff.
This is an extremely vulnerable species, isolated to just 150 square miles at the southeast tip of Australia. Its habitat, once dense forests, has been almost entirely converted to farmland, where tilling and toxins have pushed them to the brink of extinction. But while these worms only surface during heavy rains to avoid drowning in soggy soil, you can actually hear them underfoot. Read More…
Attenborough flushing out giant earthworms
In 2005 Wildlife documentary maker Sir David Attenborough spent two days in South Gippsland, in south-east Victoria, filming giant earthworms.
A colony of giant earthworms was uncovered during roadworks near Korumburra and local zoologists contacted the BBC.
Sir David says he rates the giant worms as one of the most weird and wonderful creatures he has come across.
“The only way that you know…[if] they’re there is that you might be strolling through the countryside and you hear the sound of a lavatory being flushed, and that’s an earthworm a foot or so beneath your feet gurgling along, squelching along its tunnels,” he said.
Discussing the Giant Gippsland Earthworm
Local councils in Gippsland are moving to protect the habitat of the region’s rare and protected giant earthworm.
A small area of west and south Gippsland, east of Melbourne, is the only remaining place where the giant Gippsland earthworm, a state and federal protected species, can be found.
Expanding housing developments are threatening the earthworm, with experts hearing anecdotal evidence of a population decline.
The South Gippsland Landcare Network, a community based organisation that works to improve the long term sustainability of farming and the native environment in South Gippsland. They have a Factsheet if you want to know more. Or visit this website to volunteer.