When Sandy and Al were gardening in their backyard at Robertson, they uncovered some very incredible creatures.
The pair found several giant earthworms wrapped around the base of Laurel trees in their yard, the largest measuring about a metre and a half.
“They were wrapped around the roots and they were really deep underground, probably three or four feet down,” Sandy said.
There were multiple worms in the garden, which didn’t surprise the Robertson locals too much.
“Al’s family has had land in Robertson for forever and they’ve always seen these worms around.”
The size of the worms have shocked many, with Wingecarribee Shire Council’s bushland projects officer Karen Guymer labelling them “the largest [she] has ever seen.”
There has been little research done on these worms but Ms Guymer believed the worms found by Sandy and Al were Notoscolex grandis.
Research suggests that some Australian native earthworms grow to an enormous size, with the largest Notoscolex grandis on record found at Burrawang in 1886 measuring 106cm, perhaps slightly smaller than that found by Sandy and Al.
In a Eucryphia newsletter published by the Robertson Environmental Protection Society in July 2001, the history of Robertson’s giant earthworms were recounted.
In August 2000, fresh material was collected by Dr Rob Blakemore, an ecologist and independent authority on earthworm taxonomy.
In his research paper Dr Blakemore said the townsfolk were “blasé about the historical importance of their earthworms.”
Dr Blakemore found specimens of the giant worm on a property at Budderoo, owned by Penny and Larry Osterhaus.
“This pastoral farm, which had been cleared from rainforest in the 1800s did indeed yield several large specimens at depths of 50-60cm where the soil was riddled with burrows of 1cm in diameter in both horizontal and vertical planes.”
What Dr Blakemore did find interesting, was that the earthworms were very sensitive to touch.
“Entire worms were very difficult to obtain as exposed parts of their bodies responded to touch by contacting and autolysism or breaking in two, with the head ends invariable evading capture.”
Like the worms found by Sandy and Al recently, Dr Blakemore described the worms as “docile”.
Dr Blakemore, however, did not find any worms as long as Sandy and Al, with his longest collection measuring 60cm in length.
Ms Guymer said there had been little research done since Dr Blakemore’s paper.
“Very little is known about the ecology of these earthworms, I am not aware of any further work being done since Robert visited,” she said.
Earthworms are mainly free-living terrestrial, or freshwater worms. They are found in soil, leaf litter and under stones and logs in most habitats, but most species are found in wetter, more heavily vegetated regions.