Darwin's earthworms revisited

Butt, Kevin R. orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-0886-7795, Lowe, Christopher N. orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-3893-7371, BEASLEY, Toby, HANSON, Ian and KEYNES, Randal (2008) Darwin's earthworms revisited. European Journal of Soil Biology, 44 (3). pp. 255-259. ISSN 1164-5563

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ejsobi.2008.03.004


Down House was Charles Darwin's home from 1842 until his death in 1882 and where he wrote “The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms”. The work described here is based upon passages from this book and from further observations on earthworms in this area. General observations were made in addition to systematic sampling in areas selected either from signs of earthworm activity, habitat type or in direct relation to Darwin's documented work.

Greatest species richness (n = 9) was found in Middle Field. Greatest earthworm density was present in Darwin's Kitchen Garden (715 m−2) with the largest associated biomass (261 g m−2). Aporrectodea longa was the most abundant species. Lumbricus terrestris, described by Darwin in terms of its behaviour, but not directly named, was located in relatively low numbers, but its diagnostic middens and associated burrows were easily detected. Earthworms associated with Darwin's cinder and chalk application experiments were also examined. In total, 19 of Britain's 28 earthworm species were located within the nominated World Heritage Site.

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