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How is an earthworm different from a compost worm

Unless you are a worm expert, a worm is a worm, but there are differences between the role of the Compost Worm and the job of Earthworms as well as how they look and where they do their work. They come from the same species of annelids in the class Oligochaeta but have adapted to their individual roles in our soil.

The main difference between earthworms and compost worms is that earthworms are burrowing, segmented worms that are important for aerating and draining the soil whereas compost worms are the red surface-dwelling worms used in composting. 

Both earthworms and compost worms improve the soil quality by breaking down organic waste, but it is where they do that work that makes the difference. They also look different with earthworms being greyish brown in colour that can grow up to 30 cm long, whereas compost worms are reddish purple and usually grow up to around 60mm long.

But that is not where the differences end. Both of these wriggly creatures who have gained the attention of scientists around the world since their recognition by Charles Darwin back in 1881, have very specific jobs.

We will look at the compost worm first, we know they look different and are a bit smaller than the earthworm but what else sets them aside. These worms are adapted to live in decaying organic material including rotting vegetation, compost, and manure.

The main important feature which makes the compost worm the most suitable for the job of composting is their surface-dwelling nature. That means that they bring organic material to the surface, reducing the requirement of continuous mixing of organic material. Additionally, their high rates of reproduction are also helpful when used for composting.

Earthworms are burrowers that bring their food deeper into the soil. That characteristic means they are not good composters because they are generally found in the bottom of the compost bin and you would need to turn the compost continuously as they do not work near the surface. Their main function is aerating and draining soil as they make tunnels inside the soil. 

Even though they have different jobs to do, both types of worms are important animals on our planet. Their role of composting, aerating and draining soil keeps our soil healthy so that we can grow trees that improve our environment and grow foods that keep us healthy. Our planet without compost and earthworms would struggle – they both play a very important role in our lives and they do it day in and day out without most of us even realising.

They share important similarities including:

  • Both species are two types of annelids belonging to the class Oligochaeta.
  • They are tube-shaped, segmented worms.
  • Both species live in the soil feeding on dead organic matter.
  • They have a closed circulatory system and a coelom.
  • Their coelom serves as a hydrostatic skeleton.
  • They have a central nervous system, consisting of two ganglia and peripheral nervous system.
  • Both contain clitella, the large, lighter-colored bands that contain the worms’ reproductive organs. These are only prominent during the reproduction process.
  • During the reproduction, two worms join their clitella.
  • They are hermaphrodites.
  • They are both play an important role in aerating and draining the soil

Therefore, the main difference between earthworms and compost worms is their appearance and feeding habits, both contribute significantly to the world as we know it today by keeping our soil healthy and productive with their composting, aerating and draining the soil. One could say they could not do without each other.

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