help identify an unusual invertebrate

Michael P. Ready dpmpr at
Tue Apr 29 16:57:44 EST 1997

In article <33665e66.191060 at>,
Tom Merchant <tmerchant at> wrote:
>Just got home, and crawling across the sidewalk was an unusual
>invertebrate that I've never seen before (Not that I've seen 'em all).
>Anyway, at first glance it looked like an earthworm: round, about 10"
>long and 1/8" across, not visibly segmented. Crawling on its belly and
>leaving a slime trail behind; definitely a crawling, not serpentine
>motion. But what was unusual was that it had a head shaped like a
>shovel, not unlike the head of a hammerhead shark, about twice as wide
>as the body, and flattened (it wasn't a partially squished
>earthworm!). My first impression is that of a planarian, but this is
>definitely round. There is also a distinct black stripe down the back;
>the basic coloration is a tannish-brown, and the black stripe seems to
>be pigmentation, not a dorsal blood vessel. The tail end was blunt,
>not tapered.
>Anyway, I relocated it to where is would be less likely to get stepped
>on. I didn't have a magnifier to see any greater detail.
>This is in Atlanta, Georgia. We have had some rain the past day or so,
>and the soil is pretty much saturated. Again, I've never encountered
>anything like this, and none of my field guides cover invertebrates.
>Any clues to what this is?
>Thanks in advance.

Hey, Tom,

  I can give 98% certain answer; we get'em here too.  Critter is giant
terrestrial flatworm.  Genus name is _Bipalium_, unless somebody has
revised it.  I bet it has longitudinal stripes down the back as well.
I _think_ (these neurons haven't fired in a while) that it is an
introduced species, found throughout the south and in greenhouses
worldwide.  Had several on my porch a couple of years ago; last year's
drought here in Central Texas may well have killed them off in my yard,
which is better scorp-and-tarantula habitat than tropical-flatworm
habitat.  Thee are pictures, I think, in _Animals without Backbones_,
which is a wonderful interested-layperson invert book which was recently
revised and reprinted.

Happy flatworming,
Mike Ready

m_ready at
mready at
dpmpr at

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