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Welcome to the

Wonderful World
of
Earthworms
 Free-living, beneficial
 Non - Parasitic!

 Improve soil structure and


fertility
 Enhance microbial activity that
promotes plant growth and health
 Serve as natural food for fish, birds
and mammals
(Source: Cuendet and Bieri, 1999)

“Intestines of the Earth”


- Aristotle
“Ecosystem Engineer”
- Lavelle et al.
“Angel in the Backyard”
Biology of Earthworms
 Classification
 Annelida (segmented worms)
 Oligochaeta (few bristles)

(Source: Gaddie and Douglas, 1975)


Biology of Earthworms
 Number of Earthworm Species
±4,000 in the world
400 > in the Philippines

 Characteristics
 Breathe through their skin
 Hermaphroditic (have both sex organs)
 Feed on microorganisms (fungi and bacteria) in
the soil
 Active at night
 Many are migratory
Biology of Earthworms
 Life Cycle
 Eudrilus eugeniae (“African nighcrawler”) comes
from West Africa
 Introduced in the Philippines in 1982 by Dr. Otto
Graff
 Most extensively cultured species in the tropics

Cocoons Juveniles 2 wks Adult


2 wks
(Eggs) (Young) (Breeder)
Biology of Earthworms
 Life Span
 1-2 years in nature
 More than 10 years in captivity

 Growth Rate
 the “African nightcrawler” can grow to more
than 30 cm in length and 3 grams each
Ecology of Earthworms
 Depending on their feeding pattern, earthworms
are classified into:
 Epigeic – feed on litter at the surface without
burrowing in the soil
Ex. Eudrilus eugeniae
 Anecic – feed on litter at the surface and burrow
into the soil
Ex. Lumbricus terrestris
 Endogeic – feed on soil in permanent burrows

Ex. Pontoscolex corethrurus


Cultural Requirements of
Earthworms
 Aeration (porous soil)
 Not water-logged
 Oxygen needed for respiration
 Moisture (40-80%)
 For maintenance of body fluids (80% > of body
weight)
 Temperature
 “Cold blooded”
 Tropical species will die at temperatures below
12oC
 Organic Matter (decomposed plants and
animal matter)
The African Night Crawler
 Hermaphrodite, having both male testis
and female ovary but can not impregnate
itself.
 When two mature worms come together,
both worms secrete mucous covering
each other with a slime tube from
segment 9 to the rear of the clitellum.
Both get pregnant.
The African Night Crawler
 Sexually mature worms breed every week
and produce 2-10 worms per cocoon
capsule.
 Adult worm produces about 1 egg capsule
per earthworm weekly or 2-3 hatchlings after
3 weeks
 Hatchlings are tiny white threads about half
an inch long but they grow fast reaching
sexual maturity in 3-7 weeks. Three months
later, they are grandparents!
The African Night Crawler
 Propagate effectively in culture units that are
shaded and well drained
 Grows up to about 1 gram for mature worm,
just about the size of a drinking straw.
 Segmented worm with a flat belly and
appears reddish-pink in color.
 Eats compost material including manure, live
in the upper layer of the soil about 3-6 inches
deep from surface
The African Night Crawler
 More prolific in a controlled environment
 One kilo of worms may contain 1,000-
4,000 worms
 Each worm is divided by two, and the part
that contains the vital organs (4 hearts, a
gizzard, intestines, male and female sex
organs) is the only part that regenerates in
time. The other half of it dies.