Wednesday, 6 April 2016

"Cut an earthworm in half, get two worms" & other soil-inspired myths

Artist extraordinaire James Grasdal is putting the finishing touches on the 13th book in the Superman Duffy comic series— MYTHCONCEPTIONS. Which, you may have guessed has a little something to do with common “myths.” 

I love myths! So for this year’s A to Z Blogging Challenge, I’m going to “bust” as many of them as I can—every day (except Sundays) on the blog, throughout April. 

Not familiar with the A to Z Challenge? Get the details here, and then hang on, because I’m about to blow your mind with my myth-inspired posts. 

P.S. Comment on the blogs throughout the month for a chance to WIN a complete set of the Superman Duffy comics, including lucky #13, MYTHCONCEPTIONS.
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MYTH: Cut an earthworm in half and you get two worms.

I admit, in the interest of science (of course!), I have tried this—and can conclusively say that the above statement is indeed a myth. Let me explain.

The reddish-gray-coloured earthworm is familiar to anyone with a fishing rod or a garden, but what you can’t see is that the earthworm actually has a pretty complex biology—a head, a tail, an entire system for eating and digesting food, even a brain and a heart. So, if you cut an earthworm in half, it doesn’t have all of its…parts.

BUT, the earthworm does have some regenerative properties, so if you do cut one in half—for science, of course—then there’s a chance the head half might grow a stunted replacement tail.

So, if earthworms have brains and a heart, they must also have lungs, right? Nope. They breathe through their skin! And speaking of cool facts about earthworms, here are a couple more:
  1. Each earthworm can consume about ½ to 1 times their body weight every day.
  2. South African earthworms can grow as large as 22 feet. (eep!)
  3. Earthworms have no eyes but they can sense light.
  4. There are about 250,000 to 1.75 million earthworms per acre of farmland.

That last fact is important for gardeners and farmers like my grandparents. When you look at soil, you might only see dirt, but there’s a pretty complex ecosystem under our feet. In the Superman Duffy comic Beneath the SOIL, Chase goes underground and encounters some of the more…terrifying…parts of that ecosystem. (Don’t worry, the critters under the soil can’t really hurt you!)

So, if earthworms are important to creating good soil and there are potentially millions of earthworms on any piece of land, soil must be created overnight, right? Nope. It can take 1,000 years to form an inch of soil. Can you imagine if people grew that slowly? It would take 80,000 years to grow a basketball player!

Okay, last soil myth: There is such a thing as unhealthy soil.

Tricked you! That’s actually not a myth. When humans strip away soil or use a lot of pesticides, they can damage the soil. That’s why farmers and gardeners nurture it by adding compost and other nutrients, protect their land from soil erosion by planting trees as wind barriers, and disturb the soil as little as possible with modern best practices like low-tillage farming.

I don’t know about you, but I’m really enjoying the research for these blog posts—I learn something new every day! Come back tomorrow when I take a look at FOOD myths on the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. See you then!

~ Chase Superman Duffy

P.S. Comment on this post, or share it on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for a chance to WIN a complete set of the Superman Duffy comics. A winner will be chosen at random on May 1.

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