1. Post #1
    Dubeard's Avatar
    March 2008
    3,265 Posts
    MOSCOW, Idaho The giant Palouse earthworm has taken on mythic qualities in this vast agricultural region that stretches from eastern Washington into the Idaho panhandle its very name evoking the fictional sandworms from "Dune" or those vicious creatures from the movie "Tremors."

    The worm is said to secrete a lily-like smell when handled, spit at predators, and live in burrows 15 feet deep. There have been only a handful of sightings.

    But scientists hope to change that this summer with researchers scouring the Palouse region in hopes of finding more of the giant earthworms. Conservationists also want the Obama administration to protect the worm as an endangered species, even though little research has been done on it.

    The worm may be elusive, but there's no doubt it exists, said Jodi Johnson-Maynard, a University of Idaho professor who is leading the search for the worm. To prove it, she pulled out a glass tube containing the preserved remains of a fat, milky-white worm. One of Johnson-Maynard's graduate students found this specimen in 2005, and it is the only confirmed example of the species.

    The worm in the tube is about 6 inches long, well short of the 3 feet that early observers of the worms in the late 1890s described. Documented collections of the species, known locally as GPE, have occurred only in 1978, 1988, 1990 and 2005.

    The farmers who work the rich soil of the Palouse 2 million acres of rolling wheat fields near the Idaho-Washington border south of Spokane also have had little experience with the worm.

    Gary Budd, who manages a grain elevator in Uniontown, said no farmer he knows has talked about seeing the worm. He compared the creature to Elvis.

    "He gets spotted once in awhile too," Budd joked.

    Johnson-Maynard and her team of worm hunters are working this summer at a university research farm and using three different methods to try and find a living worm.

    One involves just digging a hole and sifting the soil through a strainer, looking for any worms that can be studied.

    The second involves old-fashioned chemical warfare, pouring a liquid solution of vinegar and mustard onto the ground, irritating worms until they come to the surface.

    The third method is new to this search, using electricity to shock worms to the surface.

    "The electro shocker is pretty cool," said Joanna Blaszczak, a student at Cornell who is spending her summer working to find the worm alongside Shan Xu, a graduate student from Chengdu, China, and support scientist Karl Umiker.

    The shocker can deliver up to 480 volts. That makes it dangerous to touch, and it could potentially fry a specimen.

    On a recent day, Umiker drove eight 3-foot-long metal rods into the ground in a small circle and connected them to batteries. Then he flipped the switches. The only sound for several minutes was the hum of a cooling fan.

    "I'm kind of bummed we haven't seen anything yet," Umiker said.

    Eventually, a small rust-colored worm dug its way to the surface. It was not a GPE, but it was collected for study anyway.

    The search for the giant worm is reminiscent of efforts in Louisiana, Florida and the swamps of eastern Arkansas to find the elusive ivory-billed woodpecker. The large, black-and-white bird was believed to be extinct until a reported sighting five years ago stirred national experts and federal funding to launch a full-blown campaign to verify its existence. Search efforts later dwindled after biologists and volunteers were unable to find the evidence they were looking for.

    The GPE was described as common in the Palouse in the 1890s, according to an 1897 article in The American Naturalist by Frank Smith. Smith's work was based on four samples sent to him by R.W. Doane of Washington State University in nearby Pullman.

    Massive agricultural development soon consumed nearly all of the unique Palouse Prairie a seemingly endless ocean of steep, silty dunes and appeared to deal a fatal blow to the worm.

    They were considered extinct when Idaho graduate student Yaniria Sanchez-de Leon in 2005 stuck a shovel into the ground to collect a soil sample and found the worm that now is in the tube in Johnson-Maynard's office.

    Conservation groups quickly petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the worm as an endangered species, citing as proof the lack of sightings. But the agency said there simply was not enough scientific information to merit a listing.

    Conservationists recently filed a second request, saying they had more information. They are also hoping the Obama administration will be more friendly than the Bush administration. The GPE would be the only worm protected as an endangered species.

    Doug Zimmer of the Fish and Wildlife Service in Seattle said the agency isn't ready to comment on the petition.

    "It's always good to see new information and good science on any species," Zimmer said.

    Farmers are keeping a wary eye on the process.

    "The concern is whether a listing is going to end up curtailing farming activities," said Dan Wood of the Washington State Farm Bureau. "I don't know if people plan to stop all farming for the possibility of a worm being somewhere."

    Most earthworms found in the Northwest originated in Europe, arriving on plants or in soil shipped to the New World. The giant Palouse earthworm is one of the few native species, and has become quite popular with the public.

    While it's tough to come by a live GPE, visitors seem happy to take a picture with a dead one. Johnson-Maynard said she has received calls from tourists who want to come to her office and be photographed with the specimen.

    "A lot of people are curious about it," she said.
    Graboids anyone?

    MOSCOW, Idaho

  2. Post #2
    Gold Member
    Mr. Someguy's Avatar
    March 2006
    25,564 Posts

    Anyway I don't understand what they are looking for. First they use Dune and Tremors as an example, then they say the worm is 6 inches long. Big difference there.

    And I've seen worms 6 inches long in rain storms plenty of times.

  3. Post #3
    Gold Member
    Diagger's Avatar
    September 2005
    253 Posts
    Ya, the city exists.

  4. Post #4
    Gold Member
    Madman_Andre's Avatar
    November 2007
    6,912 Posts
    In Soviet America...

    Ah fuck it.

  5. Post #5
    Gold Member
    Phreebird's Avatar
    April 2009
    331 Posts
    Haha. people theese days.

  6. Post #6
    Gold Member
    gamefreekv2's Avatar
    July 2006
    183 Posts

  7. Post #7
    Garion's Avatar
    May 2009
    274 Posts

    "Searchers? Shoveling an airport?"
    was my first thought.

  8. Post #8
    Gold Member
    Uberman77883's Avatar
    October 2008
    7,235 Posts
    Looks like they were a bit too late:

  9. Post #9

    July 2009
    121 Posts
    That's revolting.

  10. Post #10
    Dubeard's Avatar
    March 2008
    3,265 Posts
    I've seen better stuff come out of my ass

  11. Post #11
    Gold Member
    Squeaken's Avatar
    January 2007
    2,435 Posts
    Or you know.. They could just go to Australia, We have huge worms here.

  12. Post #12

  13. Post #13
    Gold Member
    TicTac's Avatar
    February 2007
    2,901 Posts
    Anyone think of that?

  14. Post #14
    Probably because I'm over the age of 11.

  15. Post #15

    October 2007
    29 Posts
    my "worm" is bigger

  16. Post #16
    Gold Member
    Termy58's Avatar
    September 2006
    1,612 Posts
    Probably because I'm over the age of 11.
    you're so cool n grown up

  17. Post #17
    Gold Member
    Warriorx4's Avatar
    August 2008
    3,619 Posts
    Probably because I'm over the age of 11.

  18. Post #18
    CanadianBill's Avatar
    May 2007
    1,800 Posts

  19. Post #19
    Gold Member
    March 2007
    1,172 Posts
    Sounds exactly like a Mongolian Death Worm, without the electricity.

    It'd be interesting to see something like that exist.

  20. Post #20
    Gold Member
    Aman's Avatar
    April 2005
    2,645 Posts
    Giant worms you say?

  21. Post #21
    Gold Member

    July 2007
    3,178 Posts
    Probably because I'm over the age of 11.
    Seeing as that episode aired in 2001 (yes, I checked it) your post makes no sense. 11 + 8 = 19. So I must assume, naturally, that you are in the range of 12 - 15.

    Bravo, molesto.


    unless of course you are trying to imply that the show's target audience age is 1 - 3.