Worm - A new book on earthworms from Dr Kevin Butt

Dr Kevin Butt has released a new book focusing on the humble earthworm. Worm (ISBN: 9781789147940) is part of the Animal Series from Reaktion Books and was published on 23 October 2023. This 208 page paperback includes 104 illustrations (79 in colour) and is available for £13.95 from Reaktion Books:


Worm book coverThis book has the basis of more than 35 years of scientific research by the author into earthworm ecology but is much more than that. As the title suggests, it covers all things worm-related. The opening investigates the way that worms were first perceived and classified and continues by exploring a host of living organisms considered to be and named as worms. These include well-known groups that live in soils but also many that are parasitic and found only in the bodies of other animals. In addition, there are animals with a worm-like morphology, even to this date mistaken for invertebrates, but amphibian or even reptilian in nature! The start of the book also considers the “concept of the worm” and how we as a species have interacted with, contemplated, and written of worms for centuries. The next part of the book looks at a variety of ways in which we interact with worms, in the garden, at school, in water management and even in charming competitions. Worms can even be considered as dietary items or perhaps used in some types of medicine.

A central section looks at soil biology and how we have learned much from, and since the time of, Charles Darwin about earthworm science. Details are provided of his research and how it relates to current thinking. There is still knowledge to be learned from animals known to science for centuries. In addition, worm-related material that is non-scientific is dealt with in a chapter of its own, considering art forms from literature, painting, cinema, and music. A return to science sees in-depth scrutiny of one well-known earthworm species, Lumbricus terrestris. Here, the life cycle is explored, with some unusual quirks even for earthworms, behaviours explained and the potential to assist us revealed. The final chapter of the book looks forward to the fate of worms and us in our rapidly changing world. It considers how our interactions with these species may be vital for the survival of all, given the roles that such creatures have, and that go unnoticed by so many. The whole book is an insight into the mysterious world of the remarkable but often underrated worm.

Mating Lumbricus terrestris within an experimental set-up
Mating Lumbricus terrestris within an experimental set-up
Earthworm Inoculation Units
Earthworm Inoculation Units at a semi-restored landfill cap in southern England