…hath no man, that he give his name to a flatworm.
Arthurdendylus somehow made its way from New Zealand the UK, where it was first seen in Northern Ireland about sixty years ago. Harmless in Aotearoa, the creature has no natural enemies here.
The New Zealand flatworm is formidably hardy: it can reproduce without mating and live for a year or more without feeding. The problem, though, is its appetite for earthworms. It hunts them by gliding nightmarishly through their burrows. Lacking teeth or jaws, the flatworm slithers alongside its prey in a clammy embrace and pumps out a lethal, earthworm-dissolving enzyme. Once the earthworm’s innards have been sufficiently liquidised, the flatworm simply wallows in the worm soup and soaks it up through its skin. Under certain conditions, whole populations have been wiped out in this way. Then the knock-on effects begin. Without earthworms to turn over and aerate the soil, it becomes sour and ill-drained…A recent survey discovered that, while the flatworm was detected in only 4 percent of grass fields [in Ireland] in 1991, the proportion had risen to 70 per cent by the end of the decade. The loss of earthworms has meant a corresponding diminution in the numbers of wild birds and mammals, notably moles and hedgehogs.
Bugs Britannica, Peter Marren & Richard Mabey
More about the little monster here.
(Bugs Britannica is my breakfast reading now, and for the next couple of months probably.)