DOWNRIGHT WEIRD WORMS

Weird Hammer-Headed Worm
This page started July 3, 2001    Updated 06/23/2015
It started with a comment by my friend Don about something he'd found and killed in his garden. He described it as some kind of "hammer-headed worm".  Well, of course, that aroused my curiosity. People that know me always tell me things like this, probably because they know it drives me crazy if I don't know what it is. Anyway, this was sometime last year (2000), and as soon as I got time, I started looking around. I searched the internet.
The creature in question was described as slimy, maybe about a foot long, with an odd, hammerlike head.  Don didn't really have many other details, and he'd disposed of the thing over the weekend. I might have driven him crazy asking if he'd seen any other ones for some months after. I looked through anything I could think of, starting at reptiles (legless lizards and skinks) and working towards simpler animals, like amphibians, and various segmented worms. (I was thinking perhaps some kind of sandworm-type creature) But, I couldn't find anything that matched the description. But, I didn't forget.
Then Don mentioned that he'd found another one, and he'd tried to catch it, and keep it with some dirt. It dried out very quickly, though, and once again was thrown away.
Then, during a search for something else (I can't remember what), I found this web page.  The page describes a creature called a "land planarian". This is a "flatworm", a LARGE flatworm. Flatworms are considered "less complex" animals than segmented worms (and that's as where I'd stopped).  I showed the image to Don, and he thought that that was the creature. This all happened last year.

Today-- July 3, 2001-- Don found more of the critters in his garden. This time though, he took some pictures, and sent them to me. And he gave me permission to use them on a website. (Remember, all the pictures he took are used on this page BY PERMISSION.)  So here are the pictures of the extremely weird beast in his garden.  Click on the images to see them larger.

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              Full view of the land planarian.                           Closeup of the head.                         Another view of the flatworm.  View with a tape measure. Look at the length of this thing!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Click here for an even larger view.

  Here are some more links with information about flatworms.

     University of Florida  (same link as above.)

     Texas A & M

     planarians.org

       One thing I've seen that seems to be important about these worms, is that they pose a grave danger to earthworm
       populations within their range. I've also seen that there seems to be no way to kill these, either. Their occurrence in
       Houston could be cause for concern.  Since I've only been able to verify this today, more research is pending. This
       page will be updated as I get more information. According to the TAMU website, this planarian is Bipalium kewense. It is easily identified by the long striping along the body.

Weird Hairlike Worm

12/24/2006---It's cold and nasty this morning--well at least for the Houston area. After spending 3 hours outside in the misty dampness, I was walking up the sidewalk to the Visitor/Nature center at Brazos Bend State Park. As I passed over a puddle of water, I noticed movement just at the lower edge of my vision. When I stopped to look, I saw long, thick hairs moving in the water.
I got excited when I saw these, because I'd read about them some time ago. They were Horsehair Worms.  Horsehair Worms (or Gordian Worms, named after the Gordian Knot of legend because mating worms become a huge tangle) are classed as "nematomorphs". All of the information I can find about them comes from the internet, so of course needs to be verified. However, some of the internet sources are uploaded scientific papers, so much of the information available is probably valid.
They are parasites, usually of various invertebrates; often arthropods like insects. How they get into their hosts is still under discussion. Some feel that they are injested while the insect eats infested plant material. Perhaps a carnivorous insect eating an infected herbivore can also become infected.
In any case, the larva grow into an adult from inside the host, until the parasite is many times the length of the host. Here is a picture (used with permission from

BIODIDAC) of an infested insect.---  Pretty nasty, isn't it.  As if that wasn't creepy enough--when the worm matures, it then alters the behavior of the host so that it will end up in water. This releases the worm, and the host usually drowns afterwards. The mechanism of this control
has been under study. The worm chemically alters the function of the host somehow, and it ends up in water. How the host is drawn to water, or even if it is drawn to water, or some other mechanism is at work, is unknown.  Sometimes these worms are found when an insect is crushed. If the insect is eaten by a larger vertebrate, such as a frog, the worm will sometimes crawl out of the predator!
Horsehair worms are harmless to humans, and according to some sources are somewhat beneficial because they kill certain insects.  Of course, I already knew that before I picked one up.
In keeping with the alternate title for this page (Rick, don't touch THAT!), there is the image below left.. Here some more images as well.   There's also a short video clip (4,887 kb, wmv) showing what one looks like moving in the palm of my hand, and on the ground.

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--------     ------DON'T TOUCH THAT!-------                          -----------GIVE ME SOME SKIN---------                        -----------WELL, IT'S SKINNY-------                      -----------------CLOSER LOOK -------------------
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                  PICKING UP THE WORM
                    VIDEO CLIP (4,887 KB WMV)

I don't often link to external pages for a number of reasons, but this is such a unique creature that I'm including some external links on this page. You can also find your own by searching for "horsehair worm", "gordian worm", or "nematomorph".  I've also seen video clips on youtube and google video.
Here are some links:
Link 1  Link 2  Link 3  Link 4  Link 5  Link 6  Link 7(Texas A&M page!)

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