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Subclass: Oligochaeta

Status: Not Listed

Classification: Invertebrate


Earthworms are harmless, often beneficial residents of the soil. Earthworms breakdown dead and decaying organic matter into rich humus soil, thereby supporting plant growth. They also dig tiny channels and make holes that aerate soil and improve drainage.

Earthworms don’t have lungs; they breathe through their skin. They also lack eyes, so instead use receptors in their skin to sense light and touch. Earthworms have five “hearts” that pump blood through their bodies.


An earthworm gets its nutrition from bacteria and fungi that grow on dead and decomposing organic matter. (Learn more about creating a worm composting bin.)

Life History

Earthworms are hermaphrodites, meaning an individual worm has both male and female reproductive organs. Earthworm mating typically occurs after it has rained and the ground is wet. They emerge from the soil and jut out their anterior end. They wait for another earthworm to point in the opposite direction and then breed. The two worms join together, and a mucus is secreted so that each worm is enclosed in a tube of slime.Earthworms are hermaphrodites, meaning an individual worm has both male and female reproductive organs.

Fun Fact

The scientific name for earthworms—Oligochaeata—means “few bristles.” The bristles help the worms stay anchored in the soil as they move.

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