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'Crazy Worms' That Can Jump A Foot In The Air And Clone Themselves Are Invading California

'Crazy Worms' That Can Jump A Foot In The Air And Clone Themselves Are Invading California

This sounds like something out of a nightmare

'Crazy worms' – also known as Asian jumping worms, Alabama jumpers and Jersey wrigglers – have been steadily invading the US for years and they now have their sights set on California.

Worms are not most people's favourite animals at the best of times but they make up for it by generally staying out of sight and not being a nuisance.

However, this strain of crazy worms can jump up a foot in the air, wriggle around like a rattlesnake when caught and can reproduce without a mate unlike many types of the friendlier, more helpful earthworm which is a staple feature of many fields and gardens.

They are a pest for the areas they move through, taking nutrients from the soil and giving nothing back while disturbing the ecosystem around them and potentially causing serious damage.

Scientists are worried what it might mean if these pests can get a foothold, or possibly tailhold, in California as even just a handful of them can reproduce and spread out to cause trouble.

Invasive worms which can jump, wriggle and clone themselves are invading California.

Here's the sciency bit: these crazy worms can end up being ecological pests for the areas they invade as they compete with local worms for nutrients and can result in poorer quality soil which negatively affects the surrounding wildlife.

See, the worm at the bottom of your garden is likely to be an earthworm, which is a helpful little creature that helps return nutrients to the soil by eating things like dead plants and fallen leaves which get converted into natural fertiliser.

Crazy worms aren't anywhere near as helpful, eating up all the things other worms would like to munch on without the courtesy to leave behind anything as useful to their ecosytem, with their waste described as 'a coffee-ground like mess'.

According to IFL Science, this invasive species native to Japan and Korea first landed in the US in the 19th century on trading ships and has slowly spread across the continent.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture has warned the crazy worms 'will be able to establish a widespread distribution' through the state's forests and fields which may require the digging up of the topsoil they spoil in their wake.

Catching the worms and reducing their number is a tough task, as their ability to jump, wriggle and shed their own tails helps them escape deadly predators while their asexual reproduction means one worm can produce more until they spread further and ruin the soil.

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Featured Image Credit: NJH5880/Wikimedia/University of Illinois Extension/YouTube

Topics: Environment