Biology

Lumbricus terrestris is a nocturnal species and feeds on the soil surface on damp nights. It pulls food, such as leaves and seeds, into its burrow.

This species has a flattened tail which it uses to anchor itself into its burrow during its night-time forays. If it is threatened or disturbed, it can rapidly pull itself back into its burrow using this anchor.  

Darwin studied L. terrestris in detail in his book The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the action of Earthworms.

He sprinkled paper triangles across his lawn at Down House and monitored which way the earthworms pulled them into their burrows.  He noticed that they generally pulled them in using the tip of the triangle, just like they would with leaves.  Darwin showed that earthworms could work out the shape of the leaves and pull them into their burrows in the easiest way.

Reproduction

Like all earthworms, L. terrestris is a hermaphrodite.  

It needs another earthworm to mate with and produce fertilised cocoons - it is obligatory biparental.  

It mates on the soil surface at night.  

The cocoons - hardened shells covering the egg - of L. terrestris are 4.4–7.3mm long and 3.9–5.7mm in diameter.  

When the young earthworm hatches it is 25mm long. L. terrestris reaches sexual maturity in about 52 weeks and they can live for up to 10 years.

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