Earthworms are the greatest at enriching soils. The little crawling creatures look a bit peculiar and gross but in spite of their appearance, they bring a lot of benefits to the lands they crawl and dive onto. The reason why the long earthworm is so good at enriching soils has remained a mystery until now. According to a team of scientists who have embarked on a mission to unlock the mystery, their secret lies within their digestive tracks.
Going deeper into the new fragment of knowledge, it seems that worms are designed with a unique digestive system that relies on metabolite molecules dubbed drilodefensins to counteract plant toxins, as scientists have highlighted.
These sophisticated drilodefensins enable worms to digest organic material such as rotten roots and fallen leaves that would overwhelm other herbivores. The productive process doesn’t end here, as the worm’s castings returns concentrated nutrients and carbon to the soil.
This means that our soils get cleaned by the work of worms. Cleaned to the extent that worms make room for healthy roots to develop, plants to grow and crops to flourish. They dig deep into the ground for food that otherwise would be ignored by other creatures, and clear the area efficiently for a new life to unfold and develop.
According to Dr Jake Bundy, who works at the Imperial College London, “Without drilodefensins, fallen leaves would remain on the surface of the ground for a very long time, building up to a thick layer. Our countryside would be unrecognizable, and the whole system of carbon cycling would be disrupted”.
Worms get the muchies and when they do, they clear entire areas covered in fallen leaves and other microbes that would suffocate the lands and prevent the healthy roots from arising. That amount of munching requires a lot of the creature’s digesting molecule. Drilodefensins take action efficiently and worms manage to clear out entire areas. As another expert estimates, for every person on Earth there is at least 1Kg of drilodefensins present in the planet’s earthworms. These precious molecules are in such high demand that earthworms recycle the molecules to keep on digesting.
There we go with the earthworm’s digestive system unlocked. This makes us better appreciate the diverse forms of wildlife, which take up the precious space of nature to give back progress and new chances of growth.
Drilodefensins are uniquely found in worms and their degree of importance was outlined by the fact that these little creatures recycled them over and over again to harness their effects.
Image Source: urbanwormcompany.com