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Earthworms and Digestion

Updated on March 18, 2008

What about the earthworm?

The body of an earthworm seems simple; upon further investigation it’s ugly too. There isn’t much to it and it looks too fragile to have existed on this earth for as long as it has, 120 million years. Darwin started studying them in 1809. They have survived the survival of the fittest in that they have not gone extinct, not yet anyway.

Nightcrawlers or Earthworms are creatures that consist of a complex internal system.


Digestive System

An Earthworm’s digestive system is one of the most important features of the worm. It consists of mouth, pharynx, esophagus, crop, gizzard and intestine. The mouth is surrounded by strong lips that act like a hand would. He searches for dead grass and bits and pieces of leaves and weeds. Once he finds food the lips break the food down into smaller pieces. Since an earthworm does not have teeth, bits of soil particles are used to help them “chew” their food.

The food particles pass from the mouth to the pharynx where the food is lubricated by mucus secretions. This makes it easier to pass along to the esophagus where calcium carbonate is added to the mixture. Calcium carbonate is used to neutralize the acids that are formed once the food matter decays.

Next, the food is temporarily stored in the crop where they will get mixed together. From the crop, the mixture enters the gizzard where the actual digestive process begins.

Worm Facts

  • The study of worms is called helminthology.

  • 90% of their body weight is water weight.
  • They have five hearts
  • There are thousands of different kinds of worms
  • There are four main groups of worms
    • Flatworms, or Platyhelminthes;
    • Ribbon worms, or Nemertea
    • Roundworms, or Nematoda; and
    • Segmented worms, or Annelida.

The powerful muscles of the gizzard churn and mix the mass of food and dirt. The mixture is reduced to a thick paste once the churning and mixture is complete. Glands in the walls of the gizzard add enzymes, which aid in the chemical breakdown of the organic material.

Next, the mixture is sent to the intestine. The intestine has friendly bacteria that eat the food mixture. While the mixture is being eaten it releases various vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, and proteins from the organic matter; this supplies everything the worm needs in order for him to absorb it into his body.

Most of the worm’s body length is intestine. It is lined with thousands of finger-like projections that are filled with small blood vessels. The blood vessels help to absorb the liquefied food.

Finally at the end of the intestine, the soil particles and undigested organic matter pass out of the worm’s body through the anus. The waste is deposited in a form called a worm cast. The worm cast is mostly just ground up soil. By the time it comes out of the worm it has become enriched, acid neutralized, and revitalized. This is why so many people want to learn about vermiculture, or how to culture a garden/waste reduction using worms. Worms and their digestion help to fertilize the soil and grow our food!

Now that you know all about the earthworm and its digestion, learn about earthworms and reproduction.

Earthworm movement

In addition to the Web sites I listed I also got information from "The Nightcrawler Manual" by Ray Edwards.


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    • akshaya varma profile image

      Dr Cimi Bhaskaran 9 months ago from redmond, washington

      very nice!!

    • profile image

      fuuu 3 years ago

      i no bia!! fvf

    • profile image

      TED 4 years ago

      this didn't help at all!!!!!!!!

    • profile image

      nikhil 5 years ago

      thanx 4r helping in bio

    • profile image

      Gumpy 5 years ago

      Guy,u realy help my studentship....with this i hope Mr.Johnson Joseph will b satisfy.Thank you very much.iam happy indeed

    • profile image

      amna shafqat 5 years ago

      awesume and very helpful

    • profile image

      Bobby M. 5 years ago

      The worm is amazingly interesting that is why i am studying it in school. This website is very helpful thank you. I hope to use it more often, i will tell all of my friends and relatives about. I believe that in a year this website will be as popular as facebook. GO bears! I believe Miami is the nicest place to go for vacation. i use to be a senator. haha jk. Don't worry i am not a senator.

    • profile image

      Nick 5 years ago

      gygy v

    • profile image

      Adam 5 years ago

      Very interesting

    • profile image

      Worm 5 years ago

      You are excatly right about us

    • profile image

      cupcake 5 years ago

      thanks for the useful info on worm's digestive system!!!

    • profile image

      annie bananie 5 years ago

      that's so weird ! it didn't answer my question though, r u gunna make another site

    • profile image

      gaurav 6 years ago

      i think earthwarm is very useful in biology but i asking evry scientist what is need of earthwarm in bio give actual reason...i don't know

    • profile image

      anil 6 years ago

      earth worms are looking good for bipc students

    • profile image

      anoynomous 6 years ago

      nice work

    • profile image

      SAPTAPARNI CHOWDHURY 6 years ago


    • profile image

      Anne 6 years ago

      Thanks for this very informative article about earthworm and its digestion. I like that! Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      casez 7 years ago

      very good! thanks!

    • profile image

      Tween 7 years ago

      Thanx this is exactly what i needed for my assignment

    • profile image

      Dan 7 years ago

      Darwin had no idea what he was talking about in the 19th century. We are now learning that even the organisms as simple as an earth worm is a complicated fully functional organism. This article states that worms and their digestion help to fertilize the soil and grow our food..interesting....why would a worm want to do that if it just wants to survive? unless there is an intelligent creator behind it, Who has wired everything together and made it beneficial for humans to reside...

    • profile image

      Keshav gautam 7 years ago

      I want to learn many more about the digestive gland of earthworm

    • profile image

      ramzan42 7 years ago

      Marna - I know my husband was looking around for some manure for his worms. He thinks he found someone with horses who will give him some for free. If this does turn into a good business, the overhead will definitely be small! Thanks for reading and commenting!

    • profile image

      taiga 7 years ago

      Thank you for the information. I'm having a science fair project and this really helped me with the report I'm doing for it. i really thankful O.-

    • profile image

      neha 7 years ago

      i found it really interesting.

    • profile image

      James 7 years ago

      Great information! Needed for an assignment so thanks!

    • profile image

      unknown 7 years ago

      thanks, we are takin this stuff in science and i don't want to read 3 pages for one answer

    • profile image

      John 7 years ago

      ty for the great detail, needed it for an assignment

    • profile image

      Milan 7 years ago

      the video is pretty awesome it looks like skin folds


    • profile image

      Katie 8 years ago

      I love that video!!!! I don't know why everyone says that it is disturbing.

    • profile image

      theo 8 years ago

      I love hub, it is very iteresting

    • profile image

      Anonymous 8 years ago

      Thnx for the help on bio!

    • profile image

      ali j yo 8 years ago

      so what's up with these people?

      worms are disgusting but are very interesting that is the only reason.

      and i agree with every person that say that this vid is very disturbing

    • profile image

      alena perez 8 years ago


    • profile image

      harry u. 9 years ago

      thank you now i really understand what i am laerning about and how fasinating creatures are!!!!!!

    • profile image

      Kasey 9 years ago

      Wow you just helped me complete my zoology questions

      thank you

    • profile image

      antonette 9 years ago

      nice answer...i like it so muchhhhhhhhh

    • JPSO138 profile image

      JPSO138 10 years ago from Cebu, Philippines, International

      Very interesting. I am learning from your hub! Nice.

    • zannr profile image

      zannr 10 years ago from Portland

      I wish I was a helminthologist!

    • profile image

      Rebecca 10 years ago

      wow, I was just wondering how a worm digested its food and then your article came along! Thanks for the information! Are you a helminthologist by any chance?

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 10 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Pretty good explonation.

      great hub regards Zsuzsy

    • profile image

      Uncle Oswald 10 years ago

      Eww! Gross.