Earthworms versus the Internet!

There these worms! All my life I’ve known they’re there, in the Ciskei. That’s all the Ciskei represents to me, except prickly pears, and massive, massive, enormously long earthworms.

I’ve heard they grow up to seven metres long. And they live in the soil around Debe Nek. There’s an area called the Kommetjie Flats that consists of metre-wide, disc-shaped depressions that are the casts of the microchaetus worms.

Microchaetus worms!

I’ve always known they were there! What do these things look like? Seven metres! That’s 23 feet! They must be like the worms from Dune! Ploughing through the soil, devouring everything in their way!

Or perhaps they’re not, maybe they’re never seen! Always hidden beneath the earth! Gorging away beneath our feet on… on… What do earthworms eat? Dirt? And then creating fertilised soil! Exactly like the worms from Dune! And the length of a pantechnicon truck! These worms must be awesome!

I’ve always known about these earthworms, but I had to find out more! I phoned the Rhodes Zoology and Entomology department to enquire about microchaetus microchaetus, but they were probably all on holiday already. I left a message.

Then I turned to the internet! I typed in “longest earthworms in the world” and guess what came up? The Giant Gyppsland earthworm! Megascolides australis! Not microchaetus! And it says here, “they can reach three metres in length”.

Only three! Meanwhile I’ve known all my life that the Ciskei earthworm reaches seven metres. And you can hardly find that info anywhere on the internet.

For that I blame David Attenborough. He did a nature doccie on the Giant Gippsland, and now that vid is all over YouTube with the tag “World’s Largest Earth Worm”. Meanwhile it’s not!

“Those gurgling noises, believe it or not, are being made by giant earthworms, as they squelch along their water-filled burrows…”

Attenborough never says the Gippsland is the biggest earthworm, but somehow that assertion has been made, and it’s come to dominate the web. Wiki answers says “The world’s largest earthworms are in Australia, particularly Tasmania. Meanwhile Gippsland is in Victoria.

Something just doesn’t feel right. At this point, my only source of information is the internet, but steadily, Microchaetus microchaetus, the enormous Ciskei earthworm, is eroding my faith in the accuracy of the world-wide web.

But what is fact these days, if not what Wikipedia says is true? The Giant Gippsland has a two-screen page on Wiki, while microchaetus only rates a stub. Our East Cape worm has been done a disservice by the hegemony of the all-determining internet.

Megascolides australis returns 7 000 internet searches, and microchaetus half that! Is it because Australia is a first world country?

Our worm, which is clearly longer, has been marginalized by an inferior worm that simply has a better PR strategy!

I’m still waiting for Rhodes to call me back, but I’m pretty sure ours is longer. Unfortunately, with worms living below the earth and all, we’ll never know for sure. But I know what I believe, and I’m certainly not taking the internet’s word for it.

Writer for television, print and digital, corporate and editorial. Editor and writer of books. Musical performance, spoken word as Inspector Ras. Guitar/vocals for The Near Misses, (Worst Band In JoburgTM). The last whitey at umsebenzi. Latest book 415 Action-Packed Neighbourhood Marketing Tips with Basil O'Hagan, out now. @hagenengler

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