Getting Down and Dirty with Lumbricus terrestris


Common names for Lumbricus terrestris:
Earthworm, Night crawler, Squirrel Tail, Twachel, Dilly Worm, Green Crawler, Large Crawler Lob Worm (Britain), Dew Worm (Canada), Granddaddy Worm (Canada) (Encyclopedia of Life 2013)

What does Lumbricus terrestris mean?
The scientific name
Lumbricus terrestris derives from Latin roots. The word "Lumbricus" simply means worm, while "terrestris" denotes "earthly", "terrestrial", or "ground", which leads to its most common name, earthworm (Google Translate 2013).


Image used with permission 11/15/2013. Image located at Classification



Class: Clitellata


Order: Haplotaxida

Genus: Lumbricus

L. terrestris

(Encyclopedia of Life, 2013)

Domain: Eukarya

Based on rRNA gene sequences, all of life can be grouped into three domains; Archaea, Bacteria, and Eukarya. The domain Eukarya consists of all the organisms that have cells containing true nuclei (Campbell et al. 2008). This domain includes many groups of single-celled organisms as well as multicellular plants, fungi, and animals (Campbell et al. 2008). Example organisms that are in this domain include the giraffe and licorice fern.


Kingdom Animalia differ from other kingdoms because they contain animals that lack the structural support of a cell wall, have true-tissue layers, and are heterotrophs, which simply means that they cannot produce their own food (Campbell et al. 2008). There are many organisms that fit this category such as the manatee and the macaroni penguin.

In above figure, you can see the separation of the three domains of life. Earthworms fit into the Kindgom Animalia, as stated above. You can see from the image that in terms of this tree that Animalia is most closely related to the Kingdom Fungi and Kingdom Plantae.


There are approximately 16,500 species that are included in the Phyla Annelida (Animal Diversity Web 2013). Annelids, more commonly known as segmented worms, are distinguished from other phyla by their body segmentation (Encyclopedia of Life 2013). In fact, the word Annelida means "little rings" which refers to its body's resemblance to a series of fused rings (Campbell et al. 2008). Earthworms are the most familiar annelids, but the phylum also includes marine and freshwater species such as the leech.

In the figure on the right, you are able to further understand where Earthworms fit into the tree of life. According to the tree, Annelids are classified as both "Lophotrochozoa" and "Bilateria". The term lophotrochozoa can be defined as organisms having either a lophophore ("tentacle"-like feeding structures) or trochopore larva (Campbell et al. 2013). Bilateria is a term used to desribe organisms with symmetry of the upper/lower regions or the left/right regions (Campbell et al. 2013). A few of their closest relatives according to this tree are Mollusca (snails) and Platyhelminthes (flat worms) (Campbell et al. 2013).


Clitellata is the class of annelid worms, which are characterized by having a clitellum (Encyclopedia of Life 2013). A clitellum is a section of the body that is near that head that secretes a sac where the eggs are comprised (Campbell et al. 2008). This is a glandular section that is thicker than the rest of the body. There are approximately 8,000 species that fit this classification (Animal Diversity Web 2013).

Subclass: Oligochaeta

There are over 3,000 species that are known in this subclass (Encyclopedia of Life 2013). All oligochaetas have chaetae (a stiff hair-like or bristle-like structure made from chitin), but the number of setae is much less than in the polychaeta class (Campbell et al. 2008). They also tend to have a reduced head and have no parapodia, which are paired muscular appendages used for mainly locomotion (Campbell et al. 2008).

Order: Haplotaxida

This order is mainly composed of aquatic worms, however, their defining feature is that males have at least one segment in front of the segment that contains the male pores or testes (Encyclopedia of Life 2013).

Family: Lumbricidae

The Lumbricidae family is divergent from other familities that lie within the order of Haplotaxida by its dorsal setal pairs that are located ventrally, laterally, or dorsolaterally (Griffith et al. 2013). It also contains organsims with a saddle-shaped clitellum (a raised band that encircles its body), which occupies segment numbers four to thirty-two (Brinkhurst 1982). However, the greatest differentiation is based off of the general location of certain structures, such as the sperm pores, gizzards, or the clitellum (Brinkhurst 1982).

Genus: Lumbricus

The genus Lumbricus contains some of the most commonly seen earthworms throughout Europe (Encyclopedia of Life 2013). There are nearly 300 species with some of the most common being Lumbricus rubellus, Lumbricus castaneus, Lumbricus festivus, Lumbricus badensis, and Lumbricus terrestris (Encyclopedia of Life 2013). They vary in size, but are quite similar looking with many being of a reddish-brown color (Encyclopedia of Life 2013).

Species: L. terrestris

As stated above, “Lumbricus” translates to “worm” and “terrestris” to “earthly”, "terrestrial" or “ground” (Google Translate 2013). L. terrestris is defined as "anecic" which refers to their ecological environments (Griffith et al. 2013).  Anecic worms are substantially affected from soil depth and pH levels as well (Kizilkaya et al. 2011). They densely inhabit lower layers of soil, aiming for places where the pH level is between 5.0 and 7.4 (Kizilkaya et al. 2011).

If you would like to know more intricate information about the makeup of L. terrestris involving their DNA, click here to be brought to an artical by J. L. Boore and W. M. Brown.

 Find out more details where earthworms live on the Habitat page!

Check out where we gathered our information from on our Reference page