Oh good, now these weird alien worm things are invading America – BGR
- An invasive worm species have been spotted in large numbers in Georgia.
- The worms, which have also been detected in Illinois, Texas, and a few other states, prey on native earthworms and other invertebrates.
- The worms have no natural predators in the United States, so controlling them will be a challenge.
The US has dealt with a lot in 2020. There’s the pandemic, of course, on top of political and social unrest, a ridiculous few months leading up to the election, and a general sense of dismay that is shared by most across the country if not the entire world. Now, as 2021 appears on the horizon, it looks like 2020 isn’t quite done with us yet, and a new report reveals that an invasive worm species (that look like aliens if I’m being honest), appears to be continuing its invasion of the United States, this time targeting Georgia.
Worms of the Bipalium genus, which are often called “hammerhead worms” or “flat-headed worms,” are an invasive species in the United States. They’ve already been spotted in states such as Illinois and Texas, and now it looks like there are also large numbers of these pesky worms in Georgia.
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As CNN reports, over 100 sightings of the worms have been tallied in the Atlanta area alone. The sightings were reported via the iNaturalist service, in which citizens can add their own encounters with wildlife. We’ll never have a good idea of how many of the worms are actually hiding beneath our feet, but if locals have spotted that many of them in their gardens or elsewhere, it’s likely that their numbers are quite large.
But what’s the big deal? They’re just worms, right? Well, not exactly. These worms aren’t like your garden-variety earthworms. In fact, they prey directly on those helpful worms and other native species they find beneath the surface. On top of that, the worms actually produce a potentially deadly neurotoxin. The worms don’t excrete enough of the toxin for it to harm a human who might pick one up, but scientists suggest avoiding contact with them all the same.
The worst part is that, due to the toxins on their skin, the worms don’t have many, if any, natural predators here in the United States, whereas native worms are preyed upon by birds and other animals. They apparently don’t taste good to the creatures that eat the native worms and are largely left alone, giving them ample opportunity to push out helpful species of worm that were here long before they arrived.
The only bit of good news about the hammerhead worms is that they are believed to be cannibalistic, eating their own kind without issue. If that is indeed the case, a large population of the invasive worms may keep themselves in check by eating one another, but that’s hardly a solid solution to the issue of the worms pushing native species away.