Darwin’s Super-Pooping Worm Spectacular

Darwin’s Super-Pooping Worm Spectacular
Polly Owen and Gwen Millward
Wide Eyed Editions

Charles Darwin is famous for his contribution to the understanding of evolutionary biology in particular his ‘On the Origin of Species’ but I wonder how many people are aware of his intense fascination with earthworms and the work he did on that topic.

Darwin was convinced that these little creatures were under-rated by the scientists of the Victorian era, many of whom considered them mere pests. So, he set about discovering their ‘superpower’. He tested their eyesight; but realised that worms don’t have eyes, then, their hearing – no ears either. What he found was that rather than eyes and ears, earthworms possess receptors in their skin that can sense not only light and dark but also vibrations.

In addition they could sense the smell of foods they liked but none of these could he really rate as a superpower.

However, Darwin’s abiding interest led him to chance upon the lowly earthworm’s superpower. Their poo helps make soil healthier but he only managed to persuade people after he’d paid a visit to Stonehenge and then received some ‘poo help’ from friends in various parts of the world. Eventually he described them as ‘nature’s plough’ and at last the people at his presentation began to take notice of what Darwin was saying: these worms feed all the plants humans depend upon.

This is such an entertaining way to introduce child readers to the methodical manner in which Darwin conducted his experiments. I really enjoyed the inclusion of a bespectacled worm’s viewpoint on Darwin’s experiments as will youngsters. Polly’s text has the perfect complement in Gwen Millward’s engaging illustrations.

(The final spread gives facts about earthworms in general and includes mention of the Earthworm Society and links to relevant websites) Absorbing and fun, this is science writing for children at its best.

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