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Temperature Drives Invasive Asian Earthworm’s Hatching Success

An earthworm crawls across the surface
Invasive earthworms can drastically change forest soils. Photo by Tom Potterfield.

Amynthas agrestis is an Asian earthworm that has become increasingly abundant in North American forests. The earthworms consume massive quantities of leaf litter, disrupt established food webs, and outcompete native species.

Ideas for control have been limited by the lack of information on their life history traits, such as optimal hatching temperature. With UGA graduate student Jamie Blackmon, SRS researchers Melanie Taylor and Mac Callaham sought to fill this knowledge gap.

The scientists collected earthworms from three locations in the southern Appalachians. They positively identified the earthworms, and then, in the lab, simulated winter and spring under various temperature regimes.

The earthworm cocoons hatched best at temperatures near 10°C. The tests indicate a long duration at that temperature may be needed to result in an increase in hatching success. Cocoons held at other temperatures did not hatch as successfully.

This new knowledge will aid researchers in predicting the likely extent of invasion and identifying forests that are particularly susceptible to invasion by A. agrestis.

The research findings were published in the Southeastern Naturalist. For more information, email Melanie Taylor Melanie.k.taylor@usda.gov or Mac Callaham mac.a.callaham@usda.gov.

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