Science | May 22, 2022 2:21 pm

Arrival of Jumping Worms Suggests California Might Be Experiencing the Apocalypse

A particularly unsettling invasive species

Jumping worm
Yes, this worm can jump.
John Abrams, CC BY 4.0

In the last few years, California has experienced wildfires, mudslides, earthquakes and droughts. It’s the kind of situation that seems increasingly apocalyptic, with dystopian science fiction reading like travelogues rather than cautionary tales. But to date, the people of California have been spared at least one nightmarish scenario: the presence of earthworms that can jump a foot in the air.

Unfortunately, that’s no longer the case. The era of jumping worms has begun in the Golden State.

This species, Amynthas agrestis, has its origins in Japan and Korea, and first came to the United States in the 1800s. And, as a new article in The Guardian details, it’s starting to become a problem for many California residents. At issue is the worms’ ability to reproduce quickly and their propensity for disrupting soil in various ecosystems by devouring its organic components.

The worms are very active. A Forest Service post sharing information on them notes that they’re also known as “Alabama jumpers, Jersey wrigglers, wood eels, snake worms, and crazy snake worms.”

The Forest Service article quotes researcher Mac Callaham, who spoke of the impact that the jumping worms can have. “[E]arthworms can have such huge impacts that they’re able to actually reengineer the ecosystems around them,” Callaham said. These worms might not be the most noticeable example of invasive species, but they’re certainly capable of making an impact.

And, of course, there’s the whole “jumping a foot off the ground” thing. That’s not nightmare fuel at all.