NPR logo "Giant" Palouse Worm Just “Slightly Larger Than Average"

"Giant" Palouse Worm Just “Slightly Larger Than Average"

"Giant" Palouse Worm Just “Slightly Larger Than Average"

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A rarely seen worm, which some consider the Sasquatch of Eastern Washington, has shown up once again. The Palouse earthworm was thought to be “giant” and to have the scent of lilies. But scientists now say the worm's size and smell appear to be pretty average.

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Scientists from the University of Idaho used electric probes in the ground to drive the worms to the surface. Then they gently turned them out of the soil with a spade. It's the first time the Palouse earthworms have been spotted since 2008. Much to the surprise of scientists, the worms weren't huge, they didn't smell like lilies and they haven't spit once. All were traits that had been recorded on previous encounters. Jodi Johnson-Maynard has been studying the worms. She says the creatures have sparked interest in soil science.

Jodi Johnson-Maynard: “There is so much biological diversity in the soil, we know the tip of the ice burg really about what's going on under our feet.”

Johnson-Maynard says she and her team are keeping three earthworms alive in a cooler full of dirt and eventually plan to release them back into the wild. She says confusion over the worm's smell, spitting and size could have happened easily. It's only been found alive by scientists twice since the late 1800s.

Copyright 2010 Northwest Public Radio

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