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Thursday, October 24, 2013

One of America's First Immigrants - the Earthworm

The earthworm did not even exist in America before 1492 (aka the year Christopher Columbus's made famous when he got lost).

It is assumed that earthworms were brought to America from Europe, probably in some potted plants being imported or smuggled in from somewhere else. So in a way, the the earthworm is one of the first group of unknown and undocumented immigrants who came to America.

One of the first things you notice about earthworm is they will reproduce with any other worm in the neighborhood. In fact, because they have both male and female sexual organs, reproduction may be viewed by some, to be unconventional. To others, it may even be seen as immoral. For a small segment, if they knew about this group, they would create demonstrations, initiate letter writing campaigns, and put up electric fences with armed guards. But back in the days of Jamestown, earthworms were just part of the potted plant.

Many of the jobs earthworms took over were jobs no one else even wanted. Some of these jobs were not even known before their arrival. For example, aerating soil; no one had even heard about soil aeration until Darwin started writing about it. And then there is the art of blending soil. This quality was not even discovered until much, much later.

In a way, the story of the earthworm can be seen as one of America's first immigration success stories; they came to us in unusual manner, they brought in a new and different culture, and at first glance, they looked kind of disagreeable. But eventually, we discovered the earthworm gave us so much more than they took. They improved the soil and made it a much better place to grow food and live.

Check out this National Geographic Earthworm map; yellow is where the earthworms now live.  Just think; prior to 1492 there were no earthworms, but now, almost the entire continent of North America is filled up with these productive and beneficial, workers. {However, look at Mexico; no earthworms? Boy, that must be one powerful electrical fence. But I digress.]

In short, the earthworm tells a story of immigration and how even though the earthworm may not have been a known and welcomed guest, they still came and made it a better place for us all.