The worm is possibly the most pointless animal in existence, and yet also the most important - the world is cruel like that. These things are spineless, limbless and even brainless and yet to Mother Nature are far more important than you.

I was at least hoping to get above pandas.

Just The Facts

  1. The most common type of worm is the earthworm.
  2. If it's got no spine and no shell, then it's technically a worm.
  3. Earthworms have no brain but two hearts and if that's not the basis for a Pixar film then I don't know what is.

The Two Main Types

There are many different types of worm; however, the two main types are the tapeworm and the earthworm (also a good folk band name). They're both pitiful, disgusting creatures, but the tapeworm is the more aggressively hate-filled of the two, so let's focus on him. The most well known type of tapeworm is a parasite that lives in the digestive tract of a human so that it can feed off, well, what you feed off. Think of it like this: You order a pizza and the tapeworm is a fat guy who beats up the pizza guy before he can get to you. That's essentially the idea - the tapeworm eats your food, often leaving its host emaciated. This led to the tapeworm being used for dieting in one of the worst ideas since that time your college roommate told you that it was possible to live only off vodka and instant noodles.

Now let's focus on the earthworm. This is the pink, squirmy, common kind that you may have eaten once as a child (or an adult if you're a Maori). You may remember them from a fishing trip or the school ground or that weird nightclub you went to once. Wherever you know them from, it's undeniable that they're everywhere and its true - there are billions (or even trillions of them) and they are a fact of life.

Doesn't seem bad? This is one handful...

Doesn't seem bad? This is one handful.

One. Handful.

The strangest thing about the pink, flaccid little wannabe snakes is the nickname they've attracted: nightcrawlers. Rainworms I understand, they come to the surface when it rains. Angleworms too, they're used as bait in angling, but "nightcrawlers"? Really? What about earthworms makes them deserve an awesome name like that? Nightcrawler was an X-Man, he was freaking badass. They come out at night, but they don't really crawl - they move underground by pushing dirt through their digestive systems so I suppose any more truthful name would have been a bit less family friendly.

Back to the point. Like all worms they're spineless, and like most they're hermaphrodites, however, they still do it with each other because, according to most experts, "they're playas" [citation needed]. These ones, however, are segmented, have proper capillaries and yes among worms that coupled with the fact that they have proper sexual organs is reason to rejoice and bow before their pink, floppy might. Must... resist... joke...

Earthworms And The Environment

Charles Darwin wrote, "It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world, as have these lowly organised creatures." That was from the big guy himself. The man who put forward the idea that more advanced creatures out-compete less advanced ones said that earthworms (the things fed on by the wussiest of birds) are some of the most influential animals on Earth.

Earthworms move through soil by pushing the dirt through their digestive systems and the result (their "castings") aerate the soil and provide vital nutrients to plants - before proper fertilisers, human civilisation itself depended on worms and their castings. In fact, there is an actual name for the part of the Earth that only consists of worm casting - the "drilosphere". When was the last time your waste got a part of the Earth named after it?

Reading this, you may think that it was a little hasty to declare you less important than one worm in the intro and I'll admit that you do have a larger environmental impact than that (though it's less helpful ecological staple that makes Mother Nature smile and more soulless polluting murderer of animals that makes Mother Nature weep bitter tears of rage). However, consider this: For every one of you, there are roughly 100 or so of them. When you look at it on that scale, and what actual impact you're having compared with the worm, it becomes clear that the Earth has a much kinder place in her heart for Barry (or "worm #72,938").

So remember to take away this most important lesson - next time you see an earthworm, crush it. There are plenty more where it came from and it thinks it's better than you.

Look at its smug face.