Worms are the swirly, wriggly and squishy creatures that spread the feeling of loathe down your spine. Worms are invertebrates that have elongated, cylindrical body without legs. There are numerous species of worms that can be found on earth, each falling under a specific phylum and having their unique features. Though they are slimy and might look icky and repulsive, worms play an important role in the ecosystem of the world. They help complete the food cycle and some of them even prove to be helpful in conditioning the soil, thereby increasing fertility. There are worms that live on ground and help fertilize the soil, while there are others who thrive as parasites on plants and animals, and even humans. Worm species can also be found dwelling in freshwater, seawater or on seashores. However, there are some species of worms that are free-living. It is difficult to pen down all the available species of worms and to talk about distinguishing characteristics of all the species. However, in this write up, we have tried to bring forth different worm types that are known to everyone and that have some important roles to play.
Different Types of Worm
Looper, or cabbage looper, falls under the family of inchworms which can be found in garden vegetables like cabbage, beans and peas. The adult looper lays its eggs on leaves and the larva remains wrapped in cocoons until it is ready to come out in the spring season.
Also known by the name European night crawler, this is a long and fairly wide worm when compared to the other species. Eisenia Hortenis reproduce at an average of 1.6 cocoons per adult in a week. They have the survival rate of 80% which yields around 1.4 adults on a weekly basis.
As the name suggests, manure worms are used or are good for fertilizing. Unlike the cabbage looper, manure worms are not a headache for the farmers, rather are helpful to them, especially in case of commercial production. These worms are bred by worm farmers to be used as manure.
Red worms are another helpful species that make life easy for planters. Red worms are very similar to manure worms and can even be considered as their distant cousin, though they are much bigger than manure worms. Red worms are also famous as gardener’s worm, since they move the soil, thereby helping the planters. Red worms are also used as baits for catching fish because of their swiftness.
Liver flukes are comparatively dangerous than the above mentioned species, since they survive inside human body. As the name suggests, liver flukes attack the liver and make a hole in the liver. These worms can survive for decades, thereby causing various infections. Consuming contaminated food or drinking contaminated water are the major causes of getting infected by liver flukes.
A type of inchworm, a cankerworm is regarded as one of the most destructive pests, attacking different kinds of deciduous trees and shrubs, in particular. Also known as measuring worms, they are mostly found on apple trees, elm trees, and other fruit trees. They produce a silk-like thin line, similar to that of a spider web, to create protection from a predator. Though they come in various colors, but the bodies of all cankerworms have unique long horizontal stripes. They are further divided into two species: spring cankerworm and fall cankerworm.
Annelids are worm species that are characterized by segmented and elongated bodies, made up of ring-like segments. The interesting aspect pertaining to their unique segmented body is that each segment in their body contains the same set of organs. Some of the examples of annelids are leeches, earthworms and rag worms.
Nematodes are worm species with cylindrical, non-segmented and elongated body type. Nematodes are more commonly known as roundworms and include different types of organisms that are parasitic in nature, most of them not related to each other. Some of the famous types of roundworms are hookworm, pinworm and whipworm.
Ascaris lumbricoides are one of the many roundworms affecting humans. Human beings can be infected by as many as a hundred such roundworms at one time, measuring 13 inches, thereby causing the most common type of human worm infection, called ascariasis. However, children are more prone to this infection, compared to adults, with symptoms not really noticeable. Most often, those affected severely by this infection complain of abdominal pain or intestinal blockage.
Flatworms, as the name suggests, are neither segmented nor cylindrical in shape but flat in appearance and have a simple bilateral structure. Tapeworms, planarians and monogenea are few examples of flatworms. These worms are also parasitic in nature.
Famous by the name ribbon worms or proboscis worms, nemertean survive mostly in water with only handful of species being completely terrestrial. Most of the aquatic species of this phylum can be found in marine environment and only a handful of them can be seen in freshwater bodies. These species of worms have long, slender, unsegmented body with no defined head structure and a wide anterior.
Heartworms are a type of nematode, characterized by a small thread-like worm, and are a primary cause behind the onset of the parasitic disease, filariasis. It is the deadliest of all parasites that affect canines, the definitive host being dog, though it also infects cats, wolves, foxes, and other animals occasionally, with rare chances of infecting even humans. They are spread from one animal to another through mosquitoes and reside in the heart and pulmonary arteries of an infected animal, and travel through blood to other arteries and organs. While entering the bloodstream, heartworms are tiny, invisible larvae, but grow up to 12 inches on attaining maturity.
Though worms might look icky and give a feeling of disgust, they play a significant role in maintaining the balance of our ecosystem.