France has been quietly infiltrated by an invasive species of giant worms called hammerhead flatworms for about two decades. Researchers have conducted a study to see how bad the situation is… and it is bad.
French ecosystems are overrun by the stealthy worms that have an appetite for soil-dwelling critters. Giant hammerhead flatworms are very similar to earthworms but larger and more colorful.
Also, their muscles are more developed, and their heads are elongated. An adult flatworm can be 1-foot-long. Their favorite dish is local earthworms and other invertebrate species living in French woods, parks, and gardens.
Researchers have spotted the species in France and French territories, but the problem has gotten worse in recent years. A recent study analyzed the severity of the invasion and its impact on local ecosystems.
Lead author of the study Jean-Lou Justine explained that this species of worms come from Asia, but they were able to travel to Europe via international shipments of plants.
Scientists Shocked by the Findings
Prof. Justine and his team sifted through more than 100 records submitted by volunteers seeing the worms in France’s gardens. The observations took place between 1999 and 2017.
Scientists were shocked when some observers reported dozens of hammerhead flatworms, if not hundreds, in a single location. Study authors also found that five species of hammerhead flatworms are the most invasive. They were spotted even in France’s international territories, like the French Guiana and French Polynesia.
Researchers even discovered two new species in France and the island of Mayotte, respectively.
The team explained that this species of worms is so invasive because they can breed asexually. As a result, an individual doesn’t need a mate to produce offspring. Also, these flatworms do not have a natural predator, which helped fuel the invasion.
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