They are obviously voided by a distinct species of worms.

The period during which worms near Calcutta display such extraordinary activity lasts for only a little over two months, namely, during the cool season after the rains. At this time they are generally found within about 10 inches beneath the surface. During the hot season they burrow to a greater depth, and are then found coiled up and apparently hybernating. Mr. Scott has never seen them at a greater depth than 2.5 feet, but has heard of their having been found at 4 feet. Within the forests, fresh castings may be found even during the hot season. The worms in the Botanic garden, during the cool and dry season, draw many leaves and little sticks into the mouths of their burrows, like our English worms; but they rarely act in this manner during the rainy season.

Mr. Scott saw worm-castings on the lofty mountains of Sikkim in North India. In South India Dr. King found in one place, on the plateau of the Nilgiris, at an elevation of 7000 feet, "a good many castings," which are interesting for their great size. The worms which eject them are seen only during the wet season, and are reported to be from 12 to 15 inches in length, and as thick as a man's little finger. These castings were collected by Dr. King after a period of 110 days without any rain; and they must have been ejected either during the north-east or more probably during the previous south-west monsoon; for their surfaces had suffered some disintegration and they were penetrated by many fine roots. A drawing is here given (Fig. 4) of one which seems to have best retained its original size and appearance. Notwithstanding some loss from disintegration, five of the largest of these castings (after having been well sun-dried) weighed each on an average 89.5 grammes, or above 3 oz.; and the largest weighed 123.14 grammes, or 4.33 oz.,--that is, above a quarter of a pound! The largest convolutions were rather more than one inch in diameter; but it is probable that they had subsided a little whilst soft, and that their diameters had thus been increased. Some had flowed so much that they now consisted of a pile of almost flat confluent cakes. All were formed of fine, rather light-coloured earth, and were surprisingly hard and compact, owing no doubt to the animal matter by which the particles of earth had been cemented together. They did not disintegrate, even when left for some hours in water. Although they had been cast up on the surface of gravelly soil, they contained extremely few bits of rock, the largest of which was only 0.15 inch in diameter.

Dr. King saw in Ceylon a worm about 2 feet in length and 0.5 inch in diameter; and he was told that it was a very common species during the wet season. These worms must throw up castings at least as large as those on the Nilgiri Mountains; but Dr. King saw none during his short visit to Ceylon.

Sufficient facts have now been given, showing that worms do much work in bringing up fine earth to the surface in most or all parts of the world, and under the most different climates.

The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms Page 28

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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