Hammer Head Worm

hammer head worm
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Is it a leech or slug or snake? I saw this unknown creature appeared at least twice in the newspapers. People seem to be bothered by this slimy worm that has a head looks like hammer. A smart ass reader even said it was a “wire snake”, making me chuckled a little. Actually it is a land planarian, also known as hammerhead worm or shovel head worm, it is something very common in countryside.

Hammer Head Worm

Hammerhead worm is harmless to human. When I was a kid, I picked it up once (I grabbed ANY bug when young) and found that it was very sticky. It likes dark and damp area, and the best time to find them is at night or early morning. You would see it gliding on moist surface such as wet soil and leaves. Its body is long and flat, with narrow stripes, and can grow more than 30 cm long. Wherever it goes, it will leave a slimy trail behind, like snails and slugs.

Shovel Head Worm

Shovel Head Worm

Hammerhead worm is native to Asia. However, it spreads to all over the world as far as USA and UK, through the pot of plant. The common species is dark brown in color, like the photo below. They do not have predator, probably because of their slimy flat body that makes them look like an awful meal. But they do feed on their own kind. You can’t kill it by cutting it into half, as it will grow into two worms. Just pour salt or vinegar on it to end its life, but there is little reason you want to kill it.

Hammerhead flatworm

Hammerhead worm likes to hang around in garden, so you might think that it is a vegetarian pest which feeds on plant only. Surprisingly, juicy earthworm is their main diet, and they also eat slugs and insect larvae. When they attack an earthworm, they coil their sticky body over the earthworm, “melt” it with enzyme, then slowly eating it. Ill… I can imagine it isn’t a pretty scene. Their strong appetize for earthworm and ability to reproduce quickly pose a disaster to some earthworm farms. An expert said hammerhead worms once wiped out 3,000 lbs of worms in less than a week.

Earthworm

land planarian preying on a snail
Above: land planarian preying on a snail

When I study more about it, I find that hammerhead worm is really an odd animal. It does not have anus. In fact its mouth is its anus and located in the middle of the body. Isn’t it cute? Keep it as a pet and your mom will be dearly impressed.

Photos taken in Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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By Murphy Ng
  • Emily

    Beautiful worm! Where did you photograph the orange one?

  • MySabah.com

    It was taken in the edge of forest in Kinabalu park at night, with my old compact. very spooky experience..

  • Emily

    The Sony H1? The picture quality is nice :-)

  • MySabah.com

    Hehe thanks, actually i cropped the photos. i miss my compact coz it is so light n convenient. to get quality only 1 time better in dslr, i have to carry 10 time more weight..

  • http://www.orousapulot.com Silas

    Beautiful pictures and snapshot! Looks like you have been to so many places. How was your trip in Sapulot to visit Batu Punggul? got any stories relating to it? Currently we are promoting Batu Punggul as part of our Orou Sapulot Program. can we link each other? my blog is at http://dragonofborneo.wordpress.com
    Cheers!

  • MySabah.com
  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ZZXH7HE4PSXKV3KP26Y7W2BF6E Kim

    I have these all over. Since they are an invasive species, I reported it to our invasive species department and they insist they can’t identify it. Odd, as google identifies it pretty easily.

  • mysabah

    Hi Kim, yes, that’s weird. This worm is a popular invasive species so the dept should have info about it.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ZZXH7HE4PSXKV3KP26Y7W2BF6E Kim

    They have informed me they think it is a native night crawler by description, and won’t be investigating further. They took no sample, and I am totally positive this is the same worm. I don’t know what to do! 

  • mysabah

    Hi Kim, the only way to get rid of them is to kill it one by one whenever you see one. It usually shows up in early morning or after rain.

  • ccrider77

    I found one of these in my garden yesterday here in Southern California.  The texture was sticky and it seemed like a durable and active little creature.  I let it go to do its thing.  The ants wouldn’t touch it.  Since we have a snail and slug problem, I’m considering it to be beneficial.  Hopefully it won’t impact our earthworm population too badly.  

  • mysabah

    I hope it won’t become a problem. Let’s see how nature takes care of it. :)

  • Robin Megran

    When i let my dogs out at night here in Georgia, They attach to my animals fur! It freaks me out!

  • http://www.mysabah.com/ Murphy

    Eww.. but no worry, it won’t cause any harm :-)