Meter-Long Monsters That Smell Like Lilies

It has already disproved one legend. Worms are supposed to repair themselves, growing back the part stolen by a robin, for example. And that's usually the case.

But this one didn't. Both sections severed by Sanchez-de Leon died. Exact cause unknown.

The last time a scientist turned up one of these rare worms was a couple of decades ago when James B. Johnson, head of the university's plant, soil and entomological sciences department, found several while digging for beetles in the rolling hills of the Palouse.

Several years later, he returned to the same site, along with 15 students, to collect more. But they found zilch.

The worms are so rare that some folks think the whole thing is a bit of a joke. Their size, for instance, is the stuff that legends are made of.

"I've heard some stories, but it's hard to tell what's true," Johnson-Maynard said. "I've heard a story that a young child was swinging one around and wrapping it around his neck. If you've ever played around with earthworms you know that they stretch considerably, so that might be where that meter-long story comes from. I'm not entirely sure."

But there seems to be little doubt that the Palouse earthworm is a giant, at least compared to other earthworms. Sanchez-de Leon, who hails from Puerto Rico, says even the six-inch worm she found was a lot fatter, and longer, than the other worms she had stumbled across while digging in the dirt.

But what about that smell? Does it really smell like a lily?

Both Sanchez-de Leon and Johnson-Maynard said they didn't detect any lily-like odor. But maybe they just didn't sniff deeply enough.

Even if you love worms, you're probably going to draw the line somewhere.

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