How do earthworms reproduce?

Written by rena sherwood
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How do earthworms reproduce?
Earthworms don't have to travel far to find a suitable mate. (Image by Thomas H Brown; Flickr)

Earthworms need to find a mate in order to reproduce. But they don't have to look far. Every other earthworm they meet is a potential partner, since earthworms are both male and female. They mate with whatever other earthworm they come across. Unlike many other species, earthworms do not put out any kind of call or scent to find a mate. As long as the temperature is over 10 degrees C, all earthworms will be looking for love. It's thought that worms can detect when another worm is coming through the vibrations they make when crawling.

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Earthworms need to find a mate in order to reproduce. But they don't have to look far. Every other earthworm they meet is a potential partner, since earthworms are both male and female. They mate with whatever other earthworm they come across. Unlike many other species, earthworms do not put out any kind of call or scent to find a mate. As long as the temperature is over 10C, all earthworms will be looking for love. It's thought that worms can detect when another worm is coming through by the vibrations they make when crawling.

Copulation

Both worms press against each other's sides, with their heads facing each other's tails. They both have four body openings, although three serve only to hold the worm together. You can thump the ground near a pair and they will not separate. The other opening is where sperm is exchanged and then stored for further use. The openings extend bristle-like organs called setae. This process can take up to three hours.

How do earthworms reproduce?
Image from Wikimedia Commons

Fertilisation and egg laying

The eggs aren't fertilised by the sperm until slime is produced by the thickest part of the worm, called a clitellum. The earthworm crawls above ground and lays slimy egg sacks, called cocoons. It's in the cocoon that the eggs and sperm finally get together. They can be up to 1 cm long and each contains up to 15 eggs. Inside, the baby worms grow from eggs into tiny versions of their parents. When they're ready, they emerge from the cocoon and make their way into the world.

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