September 2016

Flat and sqWORMy

I found this under some damp timber, what type of worm is it?

Answer

The Bi-coloured Flatworm is native to south-east Queensland but has been accidentally introduced further south in mulch, soil and potted plants. Terrestrial flatworms (also called land planaria) live in land in damp, dark places and leave a silvery mucus trail, like that of a snail.
Photo courtesy of Paul Campbell.

This stripey worm is called a Bi-coloured Flatworm. The species is native to south-east Queensland and may extend into northern New South Wales. It has been accidentally introduced further south in mulch, soil and potted plants and is also known from accidental introductions to the United Kingdom and France.

Terrestrial flatworms (also called land planaria) live in land in damp, dark places and leave a silvery mucus trail like a snail. They hunt at night for prey such as earthworms, small insects, slugs and snails. They are not regarded as a threat to humans or pets.

These flatworms have an interesting way of eating. Most use a sticky trail and long body to trap prey. They then evert a feeding tube (pharynx) through the mouth, usually located half way along the body. Juices from the tube contain enzymes which break the tissues of the victim into smaller particles. Small hair-like structures in the tube then sweep the food particles into the gut of the flatworm.

Terrestrial flatworms are hermaphroditic and each individual possesses both male and female reproductive organs. They are also capable of an unusual form of reproduction called fragmentation. The worm divides itself into two portions and then both parts crawl away to develop into ‘new’ worms.

Flatworms are a very diverse group and occur in marine and freshwater environments as well as on land. The terrestrial flatworms are free living, but many flatworms, such as tapeworms, are parasitic.

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