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Not merely destined to hang from a fish hook, earthworms are extremely beneficial to the environment.
- Life and Behavior
Asexual in nature, worms contain both male and female reproductive organs; the smooth band that is visible on the worm, the clitellum, is what is joined to another worm when mating. After the sperm passes from one worm to the other as they face in opposite directions, it is stored in a sac. As the worms back away from each other, a cocoons form on each one's clitellum that fill with eggs and sperm. If conditions are not too dry, babies will hatch in two-three weeks, and are on their own as soon as they are born.
Worms life in environments that contain oxygen, water, food, and a favorable temperature; they can eat their weight in twenty-four hours. If they lose a part of their bodies, they can regrow it, although it is difficult to replace their heads. While worms do not have eyes, they are light sensitive and will die if exposed to too much sunlight.
- Their role in the environment
Earthworms are extremely beneficial to the soil as they break down organic matter such as leaves and grasses, rabbit droppings, etc., thus enabling plants in the soil to feed upon them. Farmers know how helpful worms are to them as they bring organic matter from the topsoil down into the earth and mix it with that soil. Conversely, they can also bring up to the topsoil minerals buried deep into the soil below. Their castings that go into the soil also bring moisture that can be held in this soil for plants to utilize. As worms tunnel through the earth, they improve the soil's porosity, permeability, and aeration, all of which are extremely important towards preventing erosion as the soil will drain better and absorb more nutrients. According to Earthworm Ecology and Biogeography in North America, 1995, worms stimulate microbial populations; also, nitrogen-fixing bacteria are much more plentiful near earthworm tunnelings and in their castings. In addition, this porosity also helps plant roots go through the soil more easily. Their tunneling also helps break up hardpan and other soils that are compacted, another fact that makes them helpful to plants. and garbage dumps alike as they add to compost residues, and the bacteria in a worm's gut helps to destroy harmful chemicals.
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