HOW AND WHAT DO WORMS EAT?
When you look at a worm you can be forgiven for not knowing which end is which. However, and as you would expect, one end is definatly the head and for this article this is the end we are interested in.
To make sense of this earthworms have been split into three different categories. The first are the surface dwellers, the Epigeic worms. Then there are the upper soil worms, the Endogeic worms. Finally, there are the deep burrowing species, the Anecic
Surface and upper surface worms ( Epigeic and Endogeic worms) will eat a variety of organic materials, such as dead grass, any other larger leaf material, and even decaying animals! However there are a huge variety of microscopic organisms that also live on these food sources. This allows earth worms to not only feast on the decaying matter, but also on a 'balanced diet' of algae, fungi and bacteria - essential for a worms healthy lifestyle!
The deep burrowing species (the Anecic worms) live deeper under the ground have a diet that is primarily raw soil, but these worms survive once again by digesting the bacteria, fungi and algae found living there.
The soil passes through the worm and comes out as what is known as worm casts. This is a nicer way of saying worm poo! However, these casts are also beneficial to your garden plants due to their nutritional value. In their search for food worms also naturally aerate the soil, improving the root environment for your plants.
How does an Earth worm eat?
Earthworms eat by pulling food into their mouth with their prostomium - the small, nose-like portion of the worms first body segment. It is then 'sucked' into the body using a muscular pharynx. The food is stored in a crop and then ground up into small digestible pieces in the gizzard - a specialized stomach that contains small pieces of grit or sand that helps break down and digest the food.
Earthworms need a gizzard because they do not have any teeth. The nutrients are then absorbed into the body by way of the small intestine.
They can consume a great deal of matter in a relatively short period of time. In fact, they can produce their own weight in worm casts every 24 hours!
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