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Environmental Law

9th Circuit Denies Protection for Not-So-Giant Earthworm

Posted Jun 16, 2010 9:08 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Evidence about the population of the giant Palouse earthworm is limited and inconclusive, according to a federal appeals court. There has been no well-designed study about its population, and no demonstrated threat from development or exotic earthworm predators.

As a result, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was justified in keeping the earthworm off the endangered species list, the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled (PDF).

The Associated Press has more details about the creature. “The giant Palouse earthworm has fascinated scientists for decades after long being written off as an extinct creature that once lived in the Palouse region of the Washington-Idaho border,” the AP story says. “Reports suggested that the worms had a penchant for spitting and smelled like lilies.”

Living specimens of the earthworm were recently captured for the first time in two decades, University of Idaho officials announced in April. Researchers found that the earthworm doesn’t actually spit and doesn’t have a fragrant smell. And adults grow to about a foot in length, not 3 feet as previously thought.

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