Bug Blog #5: Fun with Flatworms

Date: May 16, 2017 Author: EcoSpark Categories: Latest

Welcome back to our fifth edition of Bug Blogs, celebrating Science Odyssey by showcasing benthic macroinvertebrates (bugs!) that we often find during our local stream studies program, Changing Currents.

Have you ever accidentally stepped on a worm but one half managed to get away alive? Even if you haven’t experienced this phenomenon, you have probably heard of it. As long as its major organs are not harmed, a worm that has lost part of its end portion can live. This is also the case for the subject of this installment of the Bug Blog, the flatworm!

What do they look like?

Flatworms, like their name suggests, are very flat. They tend to be greyish brown in colour and have a distinct head with eyes. Students that participate in EcoSpark’s Changing Current program are always enthusiastic in their search for these worms in their stream studies because they are unlike the common round shape we see in other worm species.

Splitting Worms

Flatworms can lose part of their body while still surviving, but what’s more amazing is that if you cut a flat worm lengthwise along the middle of it body, each half will become a whole new flat worm! Some scientists have even trained flatworms, like they do mice, to find water in a maze. When these trained flat worms are then cut in half lengthwise, the two new flatworms learn the same task even faster!

Where are Flatworms Found?

Flatworms can be found along the bottom of various water bodies from lakes to puddles, often living under rocks and other debris. They use tiny hairs on the surface of their bodies to glide through the water as you can see in the videobelow!

Flatworms have a high tolerance for pollution, meaning a high number of these, or any type of worms, can indicate poor water quality. Although they are quite fascinating creatures, we don’t want to find too many flatworms species in our stream studies at Changing Currents!

To uncover more about the world of benthic macroinvertebrates, be sure to join us tomorrow for the next post in this Bug Blog series where we’ll examine the aquatic beetle!

Bug Blog is EcoSpark’s blog series in celebration of Science Odyssey, a ten-day campaign celebrating Canadian achievements in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) with hundreds of science-based outreach events across Canada for all ages. Each day of Science Odyssey (May 12-21), we will be exploring a different Benthic Macroinvertebrate (BMI), small spineless organisms that live at the bottom of waterways. These are creatures we come across all the time in EcoSpark’s Changing Currents program, where we carry out stream studies with schools around the GTA by collecting BMIs to learn about local water quality.

EcoSpark's Bug Blogs would not be possible without the support from our generous sponsor, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) PromoScience Program.