10 DECEMBER 1937, Page 17

Intelligent Earthworms

From a garden beside the Thames near London, comes a humanitarian plea for the earthworm, as a member of the intelligentsia ! The description of a particular colony would have interested Charles Darwin. The worms were watched again and again carrying small gravel stones to their burrows ; and they managed the porterage with wholly remarkable skill. They have many habits that are quaint to watch. If you flash a strong light at night on to a lawn you may see it writhing with emergent worms. Give one tap to the ground and every worm will make two staccato movements, as if at a sergeant's word of command, and within three or four seconds the whole community will have vanished. On one particular lawn they have been very busy each night (as always about this date) in pulling into the mouth of their holes the leaf- stalks of an ampelopsis Veitchii, that grows on an adjacent wall. These stalks, which fall off separately from the leaf itself, seem to have a particular attraction for these obviously intelligent burrowers. Their sense of vibration is as acute as the hearing of the thrush that devours them. Has the purpose of these small stones carried into the holes ever been