APRIL 2012 BONUS VIDEO: Video carnage has been added to this post:
This little bundle of nightmare is commonly known as the hammerhead flatworm, Bipalium kewense. Why do I say nightmare? These are predatory flatworms, people. They eat meat. They don’t have a respiratory system, but boy can they eat. They don’t have a circulatory system, but no worries: they can still eat, damn it. Hell, they don’t even has an anus… but that doesn’t stop these little monsters from eating. They eat and when they have excess discharge, they just vomit it out of their “mouth.”
But don’t worry. You can put your feet back down on the floor. They don’t eat people or any people parts (private or otherwise). Mainly, they prey on other invertebrates, particularly earthworms, snails and the like. If you’re an earthworm farmer, the hammerhead flatworm could be your economic undoing. And if you’re an earthworm? Forget about it. You’re doomed. Just kiss your little earthwormy ass goodbye. You’re toast. Game over, man.
Hammerhead flatworms are arbiters of destruction and mayhem in the world of invertebrates. They make contact with their prey, pin them down with their mucus, and inject their pharynx (located mid-body) into the victim’s tissue, breaking the fleshy goodness down for consumption.
This species is not native to North America, but instead hails originally from Indo-China (thank you, Indo-China!). It is now very much established in many areas of North America, particularly around greenhouses. Here in Valdosta, Georgia, we’ve got a good number of these flatworms patrolling the yard. I’ve seen several individuals (about 6-8 inches or so) slinking around the patio and hunting for prey during our warmer, more-humid nights.
You ask, So, Janson, why don’t you just cut them up when you see them? Death to the creepy flatworms! Flatworms be gone!
Well, cutting them up would be a icky-but-good plan if it weren’t for that pesky regeneration thing. That’s right, hammerhead flatworms can regenerate their body parts (including the “head” and pharynx). If and when they’re severed or cut into pieces, the flatworm’s pieces will regenerate the missing pieces. In other words: NIGHTMARE.
Do not cut into pieces.
Heh. Truth be told, I find these organisms to be fascinating and beautiful. A bit creepy, perhaps — but also very, very cool. Especially since I know they don’t want to eat my flesh. That’s okay by me. And earthworms? You’re on your own. Good luck!
TWO DAYS LATER… Two bonus photos from 16 March 2012: