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Earthworms: Oligochaeta

Gippsland Giant Worm (megascolides Australis): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: The head of the Gippsland giant worm is dark purple. The rest of the body is pinkish gray. They measure up to 31.5 to 39.3 inches (80 to 100 centimeters) in length and have small pairs of markings underneath the body.

Geographic range: The Gippsland giant worm lives only in the Bass River Valley of Victoria, Australia.

Habitat: This species burrows in clay soils along streams and in other moist, but not too wet, habitats.

The Gippsland giant worm breaks easily when pulled, so researchers tie a knot in it to stop it from escaping back into its burrow while the rest of it is dug out. (Australian News & Information Bureau/Photo Researchers, Inc.)

Diet: This species eats detritus in soil.

Behavior and reproduction: The giant worm's entire life, including feeding, mating, and waste deposition, occurs underground. They burrow down to the layer of soil that is soaked with water.

Cocoons are deposited underground, and eggs develop for 12 to 14 months. The larvae (LAR-vee), or animals in an early stage that change form before becoming adults, emerge from the cocoons measuring 7.8 inches (20 centimeters) in length.

Gippsland giant worms and people: The Gippsland giant worm is one of the largest earthworms in the world and a wonder of nature. Tourists flock to the Giant Worm Museum in Bass and to the worm festival in the town of Koramburra.

Conservation status: This species is listed as Vulnerable by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). This means that the Gippsland giant worm faces a high risk of extinction in the wild. It lives only in a very small area and is threatened by land development for farming and reduced water levels in the soil. ∎



Blaxland, B. Earthworms, Leeches, and Sea Worms. New York: Chelsea House, 2002.

Edwards, C. A., and P. J. Bohlen. Biology and Ecology of Earthworms. 3rd edition. New York: Chapman and Hall, 1996.

Wells, S. M., R. M. Pyle, and N. M. Collins. The IUCN Invertebrate Red Data Book. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN, 1983.

Web sites:

About Earthworms. Worm Watch. http://www.naturewatch.ca/english/wormwatch/about/guide/intro.html (accessed on December 23, 2004).

Annelids. Encyclopedia Brittanica. http://www.britannica.com/eb/print?tocId=9110238&fullArticle=true (accessed on December 21, 2004).

Careful! Worms Underfoot. http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/kids/soil/story2/goodworm.htm (accessed on December 23, 2004).

Earthworm. Fact Monster. http://www.factmonster.com/ce6/sci/A0816562.html (accessed on December 23, 2004).

Earthworms and Redworms. http://www.lawrencehallofscience.org/foss/fossweb/teachers/materials/plantanimal/earthworms.html (accessed on December 23, 2004).


The Biology of Annelids. Beaufort, SC: BioMedia Associates, 2000.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMollusks, Crustaceans, and Related SpeciesEarthworms: Oligochaeta - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Conservation Status, River Worm (diplocardia Riparia): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, EARTHWORMS AND PEOPLE