The discovery of a Broken Hill earthworm that grows up to 1.5 metres has not only led to a new species but also a new genus.
Worms usually live in moist areas with reliable rainfall of around 400 millimetres.
A worm in semi-arid desert is very rare.
Landcare’s Simon Molesworth said, “the Broken Hill worm is of global significance.”
He explained the worm is a distinct animal that was separated from the rest of the world during the Gondwanaland period and has since evolved independently in Australia.
According to National Geographic, the Broken Hill region must have been subjected to a slow environmental change which allowed the worm to change with it.
Mr Molesworth said, “the worm has learnt to dive deep into the earth during dry times and live on the microbiota found in the soil.”
Worms normally live just below the surface in soil rich in decayed organic matter which they eat.
The worm only lives in a very small area of Broken Hill and Mr Molesworth says it needs to be protected.
“The worm is already attacked by feral animals on the rare occasions that it surfaces,” he explained.
He said he’s seen the damage wild pigs and foxes can do to the worms.
“The worms rise to the surface during extreme rain events and take that opportunity to breed,” he added.\
There are other giant earthworms in Australia but they live in very wet marshy land and consume rotting vegetation.