Monday, 4 June 2018

Giant Hammerhead Worms Have Been Invading France for Decades

By Mindy Weisberger, Senior Writer | May 22, 2018 01:04pm ET

For nearly two decades, sizable, squishy invaders have been stealthily infiltrating French ecosystems and preying on small, soil-dwelling creatures.

The invaders are giant hammerhead flatworms — brightly colored specimens that look like earthworms on steroids. They have muscular, colorful bodies topped with elongated heads resembling those of hammerhead sharks, though on a much smaller scale. The worms can measure more than 1 foot (40 centimeters) in length, and they occupy a range of ecosystems on land, gobbling up earthworms and other invertebrate prey.

And for almost 20 years, five invasive species of these worms have been detected in parts of France and in French territories, according to a new study collecting reports of sightings dating back to 1999. Though the worms were first spotted decades ago, this is the first study to investigate the extent of their invasion and to question what it might mean for the ecosystems that they overrun. [In Photos: Worm Grows Heads and Brains of Other Species]

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