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This Oligochaete
(earth worm) lives in soil.
This Spirobranchus giganteus
(Red and white Christmas tree
worm) lives in the ocean.
Earthworms that live in topsoil dig vertical tunnels with side branches,
excavate and eat the soil, passing it through their bodies and ejecting it
again as waste, together with waste food and leaf particles. This
process helps to add nutrients to the soil, and it improves the aeration
and water-holding capacity of the soil. This helps plants grow better.
Some people like to make their soil more nutrient-rich by adding
compost. Compost is made by piling wet organic matter (like leaves,
grass clippings, and bits of fruit and vegetable waste) and letting it sit for
a time until the matter breaks down into very small bits. When worms
are added to a compost pile or container, they help break the organic
matter down into those small bits more quickly. Then that substance
can be put into soil to make the soil richer for growing plants in.
Tube worms live in the water. They anchor their tails to an underwater
surface and secrete a mineral tube around their bodies.
The mopane worm is an important source of protein for
millions of native Africans. Some of the people in Central
America also eat worms (the Aguarunas, a people who live
near ecquador).
In addition to the early bird getting the worm, geckos and other
pet reptiles eat mealworms and butterworms.
Tape worm and fluke
There are also some worms that are harmful. Parasitic worms,
such as the tapeworm, pinworm and roundworm, can make
people and other animals very sick.
Tubeworms - Credit: Nicolle Rager Fuller, National Science Foundation
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Department of Commerce.
Live nautiliniellid worm, Image by J. Dreyer.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Department of Commerce.