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Texas-sized Worms

In parts of the Blackland Prairie region, two-foot earthworms stalk the night.

By Mike Miesch

As a child growing up in Clarksville, near the Oklahoma border, I would go out at night with my siblings during the summer with flashlights and look for earthworms. These large earthworms would come out and build small mud chimneys over their holes. We would grab them by their heads and slowly pull them out of the ground. If you pulled slowly, the earthworms would emerge 2 to 3 feet long. If you pulled too fast, the earthworms would break.

While I was a graduate student at Purdue University, I studied with an entomology professor, Leland Chandler, who had written his undergraduate thesis on earthworms. I asked him what he knew about the 2- and 3-foot long earthworms from Texas. He had never heard of one that long, and everyone gave me a hard time because the record for North America was 12 inches.

Soon thereafter my mother and dad mailed a few long earthworms from Texas. There was a professor on campus who was an expert on earthworms and Chandler asked him what he knew about giant earthworms. He told Chandler that the "kid from Texas" must have glued two earthworms together. Chandler and I walked over to his office with the earthworm. He was stunned and speechless. A number of live earthworms were mailed to Chandler, including one that measured 31 inches. Subsequently, I measured one earthworm at 36 inches.

It was reported in the Clarksville Times on June 20, 1958, that one Clarksville resident claimed to have measured one earthworm at 48 inches.

These jumbo-sized earthworms are found in the uncultivated blackland prairies of north and northeast Texas. The species has been identified as Diplocardia fusca.

While they get really big in Texas, our worms still can't compete with those in Australia, which can grow up to 12 feet in length.

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