Some corners of the internet are in a bit of a tizzy after a Texas resident allegedly discovered a writhing, brain-like mass of worms in a puddle following several days of rainfall.
According to Pen News Agency, which seems to supply content primarily to, ahem, British tabloids with a spotty track record when it comes to accuracy, the unnamed – and apparently revolted – man found the worms outside an apartment block in Houston.
“I almost decided to kill it,” Pen News quotes him as saying. “It was a squirming, throbbing, amorphous mound of tangled worms, with a constant stream of more worms drifting by.”
Given the sources we have to go by, you’ll have to take the quotes with a grain of salt, but masses of worms such as those seen in the video are undoubtedly a real phenomenon, so they’re definitely worth a mention.
Most famously, another blob of such worms went viral in 2009, when they were discovered in a North Carolina sewer.
However, they are not – as some proposed – weird alien worms. The explanation is a lot more mundane.
What you’re seeing is likely a tangle of segmented worms known as Tubifex worms, which are related to the earthworms you find in your garden.
Their habitats are a bit different, though – they are relatively common in the soil around waterways and bodies such as rivers, lakes and sewers.
Like earthworms, they feast on detritus, and their common names are just delightful: they are also known as sludge worms, detritus worms, or sewage worms (obviously).
It’s difficult to gauge exactly how many species of Tubifex worms there are, since they tend to look pretty similar to each other, but there are at least 16.
Given the reported presence of rains, it’s possible that this clump of worms has been washed out of its nice cosy home in the dirt, which is why they’re massing together like that.
As bryozoologist Timothy Wood of Wright University and the International Bryozoology Association told Deep Sea News in 2009, “Normally these [worms] occur in soil and sediment, especially at the bottom and edges of polluted streams.
“In the photo they have apparently entered a pipeline somehow, and in the absence of soil they are coiling around each other.”
Or, to put it another way: they are out of their comfort zone, and cuddling each other for support. Awwww.