Darwin’s worms

The year before he died, after 40 years of studying earthworms, Charles Darwin published his major work1 describing his experiments on their behaviour. It seems that one of them, while being grateful for the publicity after hundreds of millions of years, has a bone to pick:

For many millions of years now, we’ve worked to improve your soil,
Yet no-one’s bothered finding out what goes into our toil.
So thanks, CD, for researching (and writing a book1 to show it)
How it is we bury stuff2 by burrowing below it,

And how we move by bristle power, and what we do at night,
And how we cannot hear a thing but do react to light,
And how we eat and nourish ourselves, and how (CD believes),
We secrete a pancreatic fluid to pre-digest fresh leaves.

The leaves of wild cherry are yummy, but carrot leaves are the real star;
No sage or thyme or mint, please – too herby for us, by far.
We are not vegetarians, or vegan, or such as that:
We’ll eat any meat that we discover (but we mostly enjoy the fat).

CD says worms are intelligent – it’s the way that we pull in the leaves
He drew up a table3 to prove it, and show just what wormkind achieves.
And yet, in the very same book, he says how “low” we are “in the scale4”.
Yet while you humans trash the planet, we earthworms will prevail . . .

1: The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms, with Observations of their Habits, 1881. You can read it online here.
2: Such as the fallen outer Druidical stones of Stonehenge
3: On pages 90–91 of the above
4: On pages 24 and 98

Image: theguardian.comk
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