How to Stop a Worm from Turning


Here's a worm that's got itself into a lot of trouble. Although it looks pretty big in the picture, we are looking at it through a microscope. So it isn't a common or garden earthworm after all, but a tiny colourless threadworm, about a millimetre long, that also lives in the soil. As you can see, it has been caught in two traps set by a fungus. This fungus is one of many which add protein to their diet by catching tasty little threadworms (whose proper name is nematodes: 'nem-a-toads').

The fungi have evolved many different ways of catching these worms: this picture shows the most spectacular method. The fungus makes little rings, just big enough for a nematode to crawl through. When the unsuspecting worm touches the inside of the ring, the trap is sprung. The ring blows up suddenly like a balloon, and grabs the worm so tightly that it can't escape, no matter how much it wriggles. Now the fungus has plenty of time to grow into the worm and digest it.

Score: Fungi 1, Nematodes 0

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