In another blow for Creationism, scientists have discovered that we're related to an ancient worm that lives at the bottom of a lake in Sweden. It doesn't have a brain or sex organs, but it does have the same kind of DNA as humans. Researcher Max Telford says, "We have now been able to show that, amongst all of the invertebrates that exist, Xenoturbella is one of our very closest relatives. It is fascinating to think that whatever long-dead animal this simple worm evolved from, so did we."
People who reject evolution have long relied on gaps in the fossil record to back them up, but the new science of comparing the DNA of different species makes this type of denial even less credible.
Now that we know we're related to one kind of worm, we may be curious about what our cousins are doing. It turns out that exotic species of earthworms from Europe and Asia are escaping into our northern forests, and will eventually completely change they way they look.
Soil was once used as ballast for ships, and some of the worms got here that way. Some even escaped from fishermen's bait. Worms are relative newcomers because glaciers eliminated all of them from North America thousands of years ago.
When worms devour fallen leaves, they reduce the acidity in the soil and increase the nutrients. That's great for a garden, but most of the plant species in northern forests evolved in low-nutrient, high-acid soil conditions that's not good for growing deciduous (leaf losing) trees, but works for pines. It also prevents weeds and groundcover from taking hold.
Different kinds of plants and trees grow in European forests, where there are plenty of earthworms, and pretty soon our forests will resemble them. Ecologist C. Maerz says, "In places like Europe, where these earthworms are from, they have forests with lots of leaf litter and lots of herbs and plants that survive there in the presence of earthworms, so are we maybe looking at a situation where we just have to be patient? The system may come into some degree of balance."
One thing worms can't eat is the mysterious copper scroll of Qumran. Learn the mysteries it reveals on this week's Dreamland!
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