Get a load of this bad boy. I found him thanks to a terrific Washington Post story about the benefits of leaf litter. Scientists participating in the Global Litter Invertebrate Decomposition Project (GLIDE) filled mesh bags with just one type of grass hay and left the bags in 33 sites around the world. They found—are you ready for this?—over 31,000 different creatures involved in the breakdown of the organic matter in those bags. Junior here is one of the microscopic nematodes that was feasting on the grass. (Their image gallery is a must-see.)
Welcome to the worms’ world. A handful of soil can contain millions, even billions, of microscopic creatures, and what do earthworms call them?
There you have it—soil ecology in one easy lesson.
Did I mention that a study once found over 90,000 nematodes in a single rotten apple? Nathan Cobb, a pioneer in the science of nematodes, once wrote, “If all the matter in the universe except nematodes were swept away, our world would still be dimly recognizable, and if, as disembodied spirits, we could then investigate it, we should find its mountains, hills, vales, rivers, lakes, and oceans represented by a film of nematodes.”
In other words, critters like the ones in this photo are everywhere, not just in the guts of earthworms.
Sleep well, folks.