Idaho scientists find fabled worm

The Giant Palouse Earthworm persists.

Giant Palouse earthworm
Giant Palouse earthworm
The significance of this discovery could be pretty great. The earthworm has been the subject of a petition to list it as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act but it was denied protection because too little was known and there hadn’t been a specimen seen for many years. That all changes now but to what degree is a good question. The worm lives in northern Idaho and eastern Washington in an area known as the Palouse which has become developed for agriculture over the last century.

There was quite a discussion about an article we posted in January. You can read the post here: Great White: Rare worm vs. farmers

Idaho scientists find fabled worm.
NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS – Associated Press





  1. Angela Avatar

    Maybe not as spectacular-looking as anticipated, but still a really neat find and it must have made those researchers giddy to finally find one. What is amazing to me is that this species is “one of the few native species” of worm in the Northwest.

  2. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    Now for the “rest of the story”. I’d say most all native aborigines now leaving in the area, I mean farmers and construction folks …anyone doing digging in the soil … has either seen one or heard from an aquaintance of one of these worms.

    And I’d also say the main research for these worms involved macheteing through dense thickets of soil….I mean beating the paths in a air conditioned car to local farmer cafes.

    I always find it humorous of how “discoveries” are “owned” as sole out of the blue alien planet reentries bearing space ships full of exotics. I have to look at it this way because otherwise I have to see the distructive side where the “discoverers” learn very little else from these “aborigines”. So much to gather in but the need for “ownership” trumps this local knowledge. Science so often is trumped by egos.

    I am looking to the day where the facilitator scientist names the species for the real discoverer. Doubt it will happen in an age of competitive grants and networking amounst the academic establishment.

    But who knows, maybe this worm dug a hole so deep its shit never came to the surface.

  3. Angela Avatar

    These field researchers are not considered “discoverers” at all; they just confirmed its presence, and had to actually kill one to even be able to confirm its identity. If I ran into a worm like that while digging, I probably would not have thought it of any special significance, so of course others have done so. It may be about egos for some, but for many other unsung, hard-working biologists and naturalists it is about documentation, not naming things or becoming famous. This particular find is of no real interest outside of this one area. But if you have ever been a field biologist looking for months for something and not finding it, you would understand my comment. I’m not sure I understand yours. There is no “real discoverer,” and is it really a big deal what scientific name an earthworm is given?

    1. Save bears Avatar
      Save bears


      You have to understand, Bob, has a strong aversion to Biologists, he don’t like us that work in the biology field…

    2. Angela Avatar

      oh, then that probably explains the comment, thanks!

    3. bob jackson Avatar
      bob jackson


      My degree is in F&W Biology (1969) from Iowa State Univ. My first three years in yell. I worked for the Bureau of Sport Fisheries. Then thirty years as a back country ranger there. I work with several universities on herd animal behavior issues and am active in different “biological” activities. My brother was a professor of “biological sciences” at a major university.

      My comments above were generalities I saw and see in the biologist profession. Most, I feel, are like lemmings panicing on their way to the sea. I see long term PHD’s scurrying after the “in” program of the day. It is sickening. And I see biologists carrying more for networking than independent thought.

      I see biologist administrators sabatoging legitimate research so they, themselves still look good and I see the same biologists ask for subordinate field biologist reports…only to have these folks read of this administrator giving “original” presentations in foreign country conferences.

      through the years I have had a number of career PHD biologists come to me and say their lives are ruined and they are effectively black balled to teaching such things as Indian junior colleges.

      No, I do not think of biologists as being a hallowed profession. some folks are legit in it but the pressures within this field are tremendous. Thus you have the same thing I saw all the time in the ranger administrative division…. Staff claiming hero status and seeking publicity in media.

      It negatively slants research and makes for dysfunctional bull groups in academic circles.

      Maybe these researchers on the palouse prairie are one of a kind…but then I ask….for how long?

    4. Angela Avatar

      OK, now I understand better what you meant. Sometimes invertebrate scientists are different–they aren’t working with sexy game animals or cuddly fuzzy baby jaguars. I work mostly with fisheries biologists and geologists. There is some of that in the salmon biology “industry” for sure. Not so much geologists, lol.

  4. Tilly Avatar

    I am thrilled at the discovery, yet also brokenhearted to hear that the worm might neither smell like lilies nor spit. One can only hope that the discovered specimen(s) were unusually un-scented and well-mannered.

  5. mikarooni Avatar

    A giant pale white worm, scented like a lily but known to have a nasty spitting habit; now, why does this story make me think of Sarah Palin?


Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project.

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Ken Cole