Saturday, October 1, 2011

Creature Feature: Land Planarians.

As you all (hopefully) well know, the authoress of this blog finds planaria to be among the cutest creatures in existence. Some people are freaked out by simple earthworms, but what's there not to like about cross-eyed flatworm? Heck, they even look like they're smiling if you catch them on a good day. Even without that luck, they are eternally cross-eyed, which is pretty amusing itself.


Then there are land planarians. Yes, flatworms can go on land. Did you think you were safe just by avoiding the water?

Land planarians (family Geoplanidae) are a lot less cute than their water-bound counterparts. They look a lot more like nudibranchs that made it onto land. These worms come in trippy colors and are definitely predatory, eating any invertebrates smaller than themselves. They cannot live outside of rainforest regions. When they do have the right environ, they do well enough to cause problems to native invertebrate fauna.

TRIPPY! Credit is on the pic. :3

The way these land-bound planarians hunt is quite ingenious: Many invertebrates leave a slimy trail in their wakes as they squish along. As soon as night falls, the planaria come out and follow the chemical trails to find slugs, snails, and their favorite foods, earthworms. They are also cannibalistic, showing that even flatworms can be quite vicious!

Land planarians are so successful in the right environment that they have been used to curb invasive snail species in Hawaii and the Pacific Isles. On the flipside, they also threaten any native snails. Somehow, land planarians have caused issues in the British Isles - how they survive there, we do not know.

From Go there.

Unfortunately, not many people are looking into these exotic worms. Despite their flashy colors and ecological significance, land planarians remain one of the least studied invertebrate groups in existence. This must be fixed.

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