It’s an earthworm so mysterious, people compare it to the Loch Ness Monster. Rarely sighted since the 1980’s, the giant Palouse earthworm was said to grow almost three feet long, smell like lilies, and spit at predators. It was so elusive, that some even doubted its existence–but now, a team of conservationists from the University of Idaho has found several of these mysterious creatures in a prairie field.
But what a let down it was.
Contrary to popular claim, the earthworms did not smell like lilies or spit at their predators. They weren’t even particularly giant, causing lead researcher Jodi Johnson-Maynard to remark: “One of my colleagues suggested we rename it the ‘larger than average Palouse earthworm'” [The Telegraph].
The team started combing the prairie region between Idaho and Washington state last summer in search of the Palouse earthworms. It was researcher Karl Umiker who eventually struck gold–or in this case, worm. Umiker used a tool called an electroshocker, in which electricity is passed through a number of electrodes that are stuck in the soil. Umiker was “shocking” a fragment of unploughed prairie when two giant earthworms emerged from the soil–a juvenile and an adult.