I mentioned Australia’s Giant Gippsland earthworm in a post about ordinary garden earthworms. So many people search for information on the Giant Gippsland earthworm that I’ve written this separate page with added details and links to more references.
Australia’s indigenous earthworms can be huge. The Giant Gippsland earthworm (Megascolides australis) has an entry in the Guinness World Records at 3m long. The earthworm has been described as being 2-3m long , but they’re usually about 80cm long . The discrepancies in length may be explained by the earthworm’s ability to contract and expand . It is a vulnerable species, close to extinction  and has protected status under the Victorian State government Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988. Habitat destruction (its habitat was small to start with), farming practices and human disturbance have contributed to its decline . The Giant Gippsland earthworm inspired the Karmai Giant Worm Festival, one of the largest country festivals in Victoria, held in Korumburra every March .
There is not much research on Australia’s native earthworms, including the Giant Gippsland earthworm, so there is little information available . Victoria’s Department of Sustainability and Environment provides a factsheet which includes a habitat map . Dr Beverly van Praagh undertook PhD research on Giant Gippsland earthworms  and wrote a Land for Wildlife Note on the earthworms . The photo (above) from Dr van Praagh shows a Giant Gippsland earthworm being handled, but you shouldn’t do this because they are very fragile and bruise easily. The DPI is interested in further information about Giant Gippsland earthworms. If you’re in the area of the Bass River Valley of South Gippsland, and happen to come across evidence of Giant Gippsland earthworms, report sightings to the Museum of Victoria.
Dr van Praagh was involved in moving a population of 600 Giant Gippsland earthworms 500m uphill from the site where a road was planned . This took two months and allowed the scientists involved to collect data on the species. Each worm was weighed and measured to determine age and life expectancy before being carried in trays to the newly dug plots up the hill.
In the town of Bass is the Giant Earthworm Museum. This has interactive exhibits and educational displays, and used to have live Giant Gippsland earthworms. The owner hoped to breed the earthworms, but wasn’t successful .
Other giant earthworms (up to 1m long) have been recorded from northern New South Wales and southern Queensland . Many of the ordinary-sized earthworms found in Australia, especially those found in gardens, were introduced from other countries .
- AustralianFauna.com (2004) Giant Gippsland Earthworm.
- Taylor, Crosthwaite & Backhouse (1997) Action Statement: Giant Gippsland Earthworm, no.77. Melbourne: Department of Sustainability and Environment.
- Clarke, Geoffrey & Spier-Ashcroft, Fiona (2003) A Review of the Conservation Status of Selected Australian Non-Marine Invertebrates (pp.75-80). Canberra: Natural Heritage Trust.
- Baker, Geoff (2004) “Managing Earthworms as a Resource in Australian Pastures” in Edwards, Clive (Ed.) Earthworm Ecology (pp.263-286). New York: CRC Press.
- van Praagh, Beverley (1992) “The biology and conservation of the giant Gippsland earthworm Megascolides australis McCoy 1878″ Soil Biology and Biochemistry, vol.24, pp.1363-1368.
- van Praagh, Beverley (1991) Giant Gippsland earthworm: nature’s plough. Land for Wildlife Note, no.11. Melbourne: Department of Conservation and Environment.
- Marino, Melissa (2005) Worming out of a problem The Age, 2 December.
- Blakemore, Rob (1999) “Diversity of exotic earthworms in Australia: a status report” in Ponder & Lunney (Eds.) The Other 99%: The Conservation and Biodiversity of Invertebrates (pp.182-187). Mosman: Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales.