A giant earthworm called Dave has been killed after wriggling his way into the record books.
The 40cm (15.7in) annelid, weighing 26g, was the size of a small snake and the largest earthworm found in the UK.
Paul Rees from Widnes spotted the monster Lumbricus terrestris in his vegetable patch. His stepson George named it Dave.
Natural History Museum scientist Emma Sherlock with Dave the earthworm. Photograph: Harry Taylor/NHM London/PA
Natural History Museum scientist Emma Sherlock, who chairs the Earthworm Society of Britain, said: “I was bowled over by the size of this worm when I opened the plastic box they sent it in. Not only is it really long, it is almost twice as heavy as any other wild earthworm ever seen, weighing the same as a small chocolate bar.”
However, on BBC Breakfast this morning, the museum revealed how the worm came to its untimely demise. Asked by Naga Munchetty how Dave had died, the scientist explained:
It’s always a very painless process in that we anaesthetise the animal first. We were as kind as we possibly could be. We fix him properly and then add him to the national collection, so he’s going to be known as Dave for ever more, and be available for science and scientists all round the world.
.@BBCNaga discovers the grim fate of Dave – the UK’s longest ever earthworm. #justiceforDave pic.twitter.com/tUVD1w7NJk
November 4, 2016
Dave had smashed the previous record, held by a worm unearthed in 2015 on the Scottish island of Rum. But while those worms were almost as long as Dave, measuring 39.6cm, they only weighed 12.6g, to Dave’s 26g.
Experts believe the earthworms of Rum flourished because of a lack of predators and rich soil.
How Dave had got to be such a size in Cheshire – three times longer and more than five times heavier than an average worm – remains a mystery.
Sherlock said: “With worms this size, Paul must have an incredibly fertile and well-drained veg plot with decaying matter quickly recycled back into the soil. Earthworms are incredibly important to keep soils healthy.
“I look forward to seeing if anyone can find an even bigger example by taking part in the Earthworm Watch survey this autumn.”
Earthworm Watch is a survey of earthworms and soil quality run by the Natural History Museum and the Earthwatch Institute in association with the Earthworm Society of Britain.