Bioturbation–Worms at Work

from Wim von Egmond

Bioturbation is the mixing of (plant) residues into soils and sediments by biotic activity. It is one of the fundamental processes in ecology, as it stimulates decomposition, creates habitats for other (micro) fauna and increases gas and water flow through the soil.

This time lapse movie shows bioturbation by 3 earthworms species:

  • Lumbricus terrestris (an ’anecic’ earthworm, feeding on leaves and living in deep vertical burrows; 2 individuals present)
  • Lumbricus rubellus (an ’epigeic’ earthworm, feeding on leaves and living in shallow, non-permanent burrows; 2 individuals present)
  • Aporrectodea caliginosa (an ‘endogeic’ earthworm, feeding on decomposed organic matter and living deeper in the soil; 3 individuals present).

Poplar leaves were applied on top of the soil as food for the earthworms. Different soil layers were simulated by mixing a topsoil (rich in organic matter) with quartz sand in various ratios.

The recording lasted 1 month. This movie was made in collaboration with scientists from the Department of Soil Quality of Wageningen University, The Netherlands.


Lumbricus rubellus

Sometimes known as the “red earthworm”, Lumbricus rubellis is a species of earthworm that was originally native to Europe and the British Isles, but has been introduces worldwide. Like other earthworms L. rubellus lives in soils high in organic matter and is a saprophage, which feeds on organic material.


Animalia-Annelida-Clitellata-Oligochaeta-Haplotaxida-Lumbricidae-Lumbricus-L. rubellus

Images: James K. Lindsey and Holger Casselmann