Ecosystems in America are going off the rails on a crazy worm.

The year 2020 has been hard on all of us, but America in particular seems to be dealing with a lot, from their skies turning red to trying to hold a major election during a major pandemic. So, it’s with a heavy heart that I bring up yet another threat facing the USA, and one that I’m ashamed to say Japan appears to be at least partly responsible for…

Well, let’s just put it all out on the table: America we are sorry for giving you “crazy worms.”

“Crazy worms” or “crazy snake worms” are the names that have been given to the species Amynthas agrestis and Amynthas tokioensis which are simply known as “worms” (mimizu) for the most part in Japan. They look pretty much like your average earthworm but are slightly smaller than their American counterparts and apparently can jump around a bit which is why they got their dramatic nicknames.

▼ As we can see, they are quite tricky to pick up

They are both native to Japan and must have snuck into the USA somehow. There presence there isn’t actually new as they’ve been reported for a few years now, but it is growing and that’s why people ought to be concerned.

A key attribute of these Japanese worms is that they tend to gobble up all the leaves on the ground, leaving the forest floor relatively bare but providing it with rich nutrients through their poop.

However, many American forests rely on a layer of dead leaves that both keeps moisture in the soil and acts as a protective “skin” against pathogens. By eating the leaves, not only are crazy worms breaking down this protective layer but are also altering the humidity levels that seeds depend on to germinate.

▼ A video showing the effect invasive worms in general can have on wooded areas

This all sounds pretty bad, but it isn’t exactly clear how this will affect ecosystems in the long run where the crazy worms have taken root. Worms’ digestive systems are quite complex mixtures of microorganisms which emerge in their fecal matter and become one with the soil. 

According to a recent study published in Soil Biology and Biochemistry, even though the crazy worms are reducing the leaf-cover that American soil relies on, they are at the same time changing the very nature of the soil into something which resembles that found in their home country. In other words, these little jumping worms are effectively Japanitizing American soil.

It’s an unexpected and rather odd situation, and Japanese people aren’t really sure how to feel about it.

“Wow, Japanese animals are really strong, aren’t they?”
“Why do they call them ‘crazy worms?’”
“Worms are like little terraforming machines, but unfortunately Japan is ‘terraforming’ the USA.”
“I always thought our earthworms were the good guys.”
“They should start making rice paddies.”
“The Japan worms are even the away team and they’re winning.”
“On behalf of Japan I’d like to apologize. Please excuse us.”

Again, the ultimate effect of this invasive species is yet to be understood, but it’s definitely important to continue monitoring. Whatever does happen, hopefully America won’t hold it against us and will bear in mind that while dealing with our own invasive crayfish problem the government has granted Louisiana mudbugs a special asylum.

Also as an act of solidarity during this time, Mother Nature’s Japan division is also more than willing to send in scores more osuzumebachi, which the American media has affectionately dubbed “murder hornets,” to help deal with the problem. Even if they don’t end up eating the crazy worms, we hear they make a kick-ass moonshine.

Source: Soil Biology and Biochemistry 149, Nazology, Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso
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