“Juan Palacio, one of my friends at [University of Texas at Austin], is from Colombia, and he invited me and another friend (Will) to the place where he did his Master’s research: Cueva de Los Guacharos National Park. Juan could not join us, unfortunately, but Will and I stayed in the park for a week,” explains Robby Deans (aka @hydaticus). “The park is known for its limestone caves and the oilbirds (Guacharos) that nest in them. We got to see many of these birds, and a variety of other awesome wildlife. Other highlights include Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, Eyelash Viper, and many great butterflies such as Rhetus dysonii and Morpho sulkowskyi.”
Robby’s current research involves aquatic invertebrates, but the invertebrate photographed above is decidedly terrestrial. “I was at the back of the group, but I could see a long thin animal slowly moving down the trail,” recalls Robby. “My first thought was that it was a snake, so I was already excited. Then, Will says he thinks it is a caecilian, and so I get even more excited. After Will picked it up and turned around so I could see it, we immediately realized it was a worm, and the two of us just started laughing at how impossibly big it was. It was definitely one of the more memorable moments of an awesome trip.”
What they found was an earthworm of the Martiodrilus genus (the first one posted to iNaturalist!), which are native to South America can can grow to several feet in length. Robby says this one appeared to be 2-3 feet long, depending on how stretched out it was. Not much is known about this genus, but like other earthworms they dig through the soil, aerating it and creating rich humus for plant life. And while Martiodrilus are large, they are dwarfed by the Giant Gippsland Earthworm from Australia, which has been recorded at around 3 meters in length!
Robby continues his research at UT and also teaches field courses, including Entomology and Vertebrate Natural History. “I [also] have started getting more into photography over the past three years, which helps me to share what I see with everyone else,” he says.
“I first started using iNaturalist just to share my photos and sightings with other people who are interested in natural history. Now that more people are using it, I use it more often to see what other people are finding. Things are always changing, and enough people are using the site now that you can really track those changes. The site also does a great job of linking other sources of information, and it is the only place I know of that has point observations on a map for all taxa together in one place.”
- by Tony Iwane
- And of course David Attenborough visits Australia’s giant worms.
- Interested in Vermicomposting? Here’s a how-to from University of Nebraska-Lincoln.