A massive earthworm discovered by an English gardener has wriggled its way into the United Kingdom’s record books. As National Geographic reports, the 16-inch worm—nicknamed Dave—bears the proud distinction of being the longest annelid ever recorded in the UK.
A man named Paul Rees, who lives in England's Cheshire County, found the record-breaking worm in his vegetable plot. European earthworms typically range from around eight to 10 inches in length, but this one was truly exceptional. In addition to being around half a foot longer than your average annelid, it weighed almost an ounce—nearly twice the weight of any other recorded wild earthworm. (Prior to Rees’s find, the world’s largest known earthworm was a Scottish worm found in 2015 that tipped the scales at half an ounce.)
Rees’s stepson, George, christened the worm "Dave," and it was sent to experts at the Natural History Museum. Emma Sherlock, a Life Sciences curator who chairs the Earthworm Society of Britain, “was bowled over by the size of the worm when I opened the plastic box they sent it in,” she said in a press release.
According to Sherlock, Dave weighed the same as a small chocolate bar, which begs the question: How did this particular earthworm get to be so big? Dave may have had time on his side. Nobody knows quite how long earthworms live (some have survived up to six years in captivity), but they have so many natural predators that they typically don’t survive long enough in the great outdoors to reach Dave’s enormous proportions.
Dave may have beaten the survival odds, but that didn't stop him from being sacrificed in the name of science. The record-breaking annelid was killed and preserved, and will go on display as part of the museum’s worm collection. (Social media users have expressed their sorrow by creating a Twitter account, @PoorDaveTheWorm, and using the hashtag #davetheworm.)
That being said, a few of Dave’s large cousins might still be lurking in Rees’s garden, improving the soil with every wriggle. “With worms this size, Paul [Rees] must have an incredibly fertile and well-drained vegetable plot with decaying matter quickly recycled back into the soil,” Sherlock said.
[h/t National Geographic]