Invasive Species: Giant Hammerhead Worms Invading France (Download PDF)

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For two decades, sizable, squishy invaders are permeate French ecosystems & preying on small, soil-dwelling creatures. Invaders are giant hammerhead flatworms - brightly colored specimens.

Image of Giant Hammerhead Worms Invading France

Image of Giant Hammerhead Worms Invading France

Image of Giant Hammerhead Worms Invading France

Structure of Giant Hammerhead Worms

  • They have muscular, colorful bodies topped w/elongated heads resembling those of hammerhead sharks, though on much smaller scale.
  • Worms can measure more than 1 foot (40 centimeters) in length, & they occupy range of ecosystems on land, gobbling up earthworms & other invertebrate prey.

Threats Due to Giant Hammerhead Worms

  • For almost 20 years, 5 invasive species of these worms are detected in parts of France & in French territories, according to new study collecting reports of sightings dating back to 1999.
  • Flatworms have astonishing regeneration power. When bits of them are amputated, these bits can regrow into complete worms, even from snipped-off fragments that represent 1/300th of worm’s body.
  • Flatworm sent into space grew second head after its tail was cut off. Researchers tweaked worms’ regeneration so that after animals’ heads were amputated, they regrew heads & brains resembling those of diff. species.
  • Land flatworms produce chemicals that give them unpleasant taste so predators avoid eating worms.

How Are Flatworms Introduced

  • Flatworms can be introduced to foreign habitats as soil stowaways in international plant shipments.
  • Many flatworm species are native to Europe. Giant hammerhead flatworms are typically found only in warm parts of Asia.
  • Researchers identified 5 non-native species of giant hammerhead flatworms, distributed in mainland France & in French overseas territories, including Caribbean French Islands, French Polynesia & French Guiana.

Invasive Flatworm Species

  • 2 of flatworm species in Diversibipalium genus, one black, found in France, & one iridescent blue, found on island of Mayotte are likely newfound species.
  • Giant flatworm species reproduce asexually, which enables single individual to produce many offspring immediately.

- Published/Last Modified on: August 31, 2018

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