Researchers Find Rare Giant Western Worm

MOSCOW, Idaho, April 29 (UPI) — Two researchers have discovered the giant Palouse earthworm of the northwestern United States is not extinct — and not as giant as its reputation.

Karl Umiker of the University of Idaho and a graduate student from Chengdu, China, Shan Xu, found an adult and juvenile in late March in one of the few remaining patches of Palouse prairie near Moscow, Idaho, The New York Times reported.

Dr. Jodi Johnson-Maynard, who teaches soil and water management at the university, said the worms were no more than 7 inches long when found. The adult stretched to 9 inches or so when relaxed in the laboratory — nothing like the 3 feet of tall tales.

The Palouse prairie, an area of glacial outwash in Idaho and Washington, has mostly become farmland, and the worm, first described in 1897, is hard to find.

“Most people thought it was extinct, or that it never even existed, like the Loch Ness monster,” Johnson-Maynard said.

She said the stories about the worm’s large size appear to come from one incident decades ago when a boy found a worm and swung it, stretching it well beyond its natural length.

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