The Loh Down On Science

Worm Grunting

Why worm grunting gets the grubs out.

Ever serenade. . . a worm??

This is Sandra Tsing Loh, with the Loh Down on Science

Southern fishermen seeking bait have perfected the art of catching Diplocardia mississippiensis --a common earthworm--using what's known as WORM GRUNTING.

The process, in a nutshell? You drive a wooden stake in the ground and rub it with a metal bar to create a "grunt." The noise echoes through the soil, luring earthworms from subterranean burrows, into the light of day. And into the waiting hands of worm grunters.

A skilled worm-grunter can wrangle hundreds to thousands of worms in a few hours.

But a recent study proves that it's not so much art as a happy accident in vibration mimicry. Happy for the fishermen, that is, who unwittingly exploit an age-old predator-prey relationship.

Kenneth Catania of Vanderbilt University says worm grunting works because it mimics the sounds made by American moles--the primary earthworm predator.

Moles create grunt-like vibrations as they burrow. Worms detect the vibrations and simply try to escape by coming up to the surface.

And you thought "worm-grunting" was sophisticated! Oh no! Surprisingly rudimentary is the worm. . . grunting.


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