Strange And Scary ‘Worm Tornado’ Happened In New Jersey And Scientists AreScratching Their Heads

The advent of the worms was preceded by torrential rainfall.

Thousands of earthworms wriggle on top of dirt and pavements after spring showers. However, strong rains in a village near New York City were recently followed by something a bit different: a wormnado.

On March 25, a resident of Hoboken, New Jersey was out for a morning stroll in a park near the Hudson River when she noticed hundreds of worms strewn across the path. After her first amazement, the woman discovered something even more bizarre: a number of the worms had created a cyclone-like pattern, making a spiral where the edge of the grass met the pavement, according to Live Science.

Tiffanie Fisher, a member of the Hoboken City Council, published the photos of the “tornado of worms” on Facebook after the lady took them. “It’s obvious that worms emerge when it rains, but this is something I’ve never seen!” Fisher talked about it in his blog article.

The worm tornadoes weren’t actively spinning when the photographer noticed them, however individual worms still wriggled in place, she told Live Science. There were no open pipes nearby, and despite the fact that most of the worms were spread out in a giant swirl, there were plenty of worms reaching beyond the wormnado’s outer arc; they stuck to the side of a neighboring building and dribbled down the curb and onto the road, according to the lady.

While it’s tempting to think the worms were positioning themselves in a spiral in preparation for the Worm Moon — the supermoon that shone brightly in the night sky just a few days later on March 28 – the spiral is unlikely to be a lunar ritual. So, what exactly was this strange wormnado all about?

According to the University of Wisconsin–Madison, worms breathe through their skin, thus when heavy or continuous rain saturates the earth with water, they must tunnel to the surface or risk drowning. Earthworms are usually solitary, but when they’re on the surface, they can create herds. Researchers stated in the International Journal of Behavioural Biology in 2010 that the worms congregate in groups and communicate with one another on where to travel.

Earthworms of the species Eisenia fetida formed clusters and “influenced each other to adopt a similar path throughout their migration,” according to the researchers, and they did it via touch rather than chemical cues. According to the study, this collective action might help earthworms endure natural risks such as flooding or parched soil, as well as serve as a defense strategy against predators or viruses.

Rangers at Eisenhower State Park in Denison, Texas, recorded an unusual case of earthworm herding on camera in 2015. Several massive masses of pink earthworms crawl across a road in footage released to the Texas Parks and Wildlife YouTube page.

In a video explanation, park authorities noted, “Recent floods may have brought forth this herding tendency.”

The reason for the Hoboken wormnado, on the other hand, is less known. “This tornado form is incredibly unique,” said Kyungsoo Yoo, a professor at the University of Minnesota’s Department of Soil, Water, and Climate. Yoo researches how invasive earthworms alter forest ecosystems, and despite the fact that worms are notorious for mass-emerging from the soil after rain, he had never seen them create a spiral before, according to an email from Yoo to Live Science.

When threatened by dry conditions, aquatic worms such as the California blackworm (Lumbriculus variegatus) can form a massive living knot — known as a blob — of up to 50,000 worms, according to “Worm Blobs,” a comic created by the Bhamla Lab at Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and illustrated by artist Lindsey Leigh. Bhamla Lab experts said in the comic that a closely packed blob of worms is less likely to dry up than a single worm, and the worms pull and push to shift the blob around.

In an email, lab head Saad Bhamla, an assistant professor at Georgia Tech, said that the appearance of a swirling wormnado may be explained by abrupt changes in the soil’s water, together with the geometry of the terrain.

In an email to Live Science, Bhamla said, “The earth there may be dipped.” “The worms may be following a water gradient if the water drained that way after floods.” The worm species can’t be determined from the photographs, but Bhamla and his colleagues have seen similar behavior in the aquatic blackworms they research, which create gigantic blobs.

Bhamla remarked, “We’ve seen them follow water tracks and construct all kinds of routes and aggregate structures.” “As soon as the water evaporates, these aggregations form.” However, because the sort of worms that created the spiral is unknown, any judgments regarding their behavior are speculative, according to Bhamla.

Rainfall totaled roughly 1 inch (2.5 cm) the night before the photographs were shot, according to local meteorological sources. In an email to Live Science, Harry Tuazon, a doctorate candidate in Georgia Tech’s Interdisciplinary Bioengineering Graduate Program, said, “That would have resulted in a lot of earthworms emerging out of the soil for air.”

“I believe the circular pattern is more indicative of water draining and the worms being swept than of behavioral mobility,” Tuazon added. “Is it possible that a sinkhole is forming? It’d be fascinating if a swarm of earthworms gave away the presence of a sinkhole in the making!”

Whatever caused the wormnado in Hoboken, it didn’t persist long. The swirl was vanished by the time the woman who photographed it returned to the park a few hours later.

“There were still a lot of worms on the walls, the curb, the sidewalk, and the road. However, the most of stuff was vanished — I’m not sure where they went “she stated

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