Maine invaded by toxic cannibal worms

Bangor Daily News reports that the northeasterly-most state is slowly being taken over by an invasive species of self-replicating worms that feed on other worms and also excrete the same deadly toxin found in pufferfish. Neat!

The discovery is bad news for Maine's gardeners since hammerheads prey on earthworms, which contribute to the health of Maine soil by turning organic materials into useful compost. Earthworm activity also helps aerate the soil, which increases soil nutrients and moisture intake. The hammerhead worm has no known predators.


They are also the first land invertebrates found to produce the same toxin that is found in pufferfish. In the fish, the toxin is lethal to humans with one pufferfish containing enough to kill 30 adult humans. Little is known about the hammerhead toxin's effects on humans, but it is believed a person would have to eat a large quantity of them to be lethal. However, it is a good idea to wash your hands after handling hammerhead worms.

Like other worms, these hammerheads also reproduce every time a part breaks off, and also only have one orifice that serves as both a mouth and a butthole. Neat!

A toxic, self-cloning worm that poops out of its mouth is invading Maine [Julia Bayly / Bangor Daily News]

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