Apr 11, 2010

Earthworms make "group decisions"

Photo by Lara Zirbes
A 'herd' of worms travel together

Earthworms form herds and
make "group decisions"
by Matt Walker
Editor, Earth News

"Earthworms form herds and make "group decisions", scientists have discovered.

The earthworms use touch to communicate and influence each other's behavior, according to research published in the journal Ethology.

By doing so the worms  collectively decide to travel in the same direction as part of a single herd.

"Our results modify the current view that earthworms are animals lacking in social behaviour," says Ms Lara Zirbes, a PhD student at the University of Liege in Gembloux in Belgium.  

"We can consider the earthworm behaviour as equivalent to a herd of swarm."

Ms. Zirbes and colleagues were originally interested in how earthworms interact with other microorganisms in the soil.

These interactions are part of the important ecological role of that earthworms play.

However, the researchers began to notice that the earthworms seemed also to interact with each other.

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