Slimy creatures that can grow up to 40 meters have been silently invading France, and territories, for decades.
French wildlife is under threat from giant predatory worms that have been infesting the country, as well as overseas territories, for years.
Originally from tropical parts of Asia, the alien-looking creepers have infiltrated gardens all over the European country, as well as its territories all over the world.
— The Life Pile (@thelifepile) May 22, 2018
Although rather large in size, the unusual creatures had gone about virtually unnoticed until amateur naturalist Pierre Gros took a photograph of one back in 2013.
The photograph circulated among specialists for a while before ending up with Professor Jean-Lou Justine, a zoologist at the French National Museum of Natural History.
“I looked at it and said ‘Well, this is not possible – we don’t have this kind of animal in France’,” he told the Independent.
At first, Prof. Justine believed the image to be fake, especially after Mr. Gros sent him several other pictures of exotic worm species he claimed lived in his garden.
After verifying the images however, the Professor decided to take the claim more seriously and tried to assess the scale of their presence in France.
— The Life Pile (@thelifepile) May 14, 2018
To his surprise, after gathering sighting records from more than 100 contributors over the course of five years, he found the giant flatworms to be present in many parts of the country, as well as in some tropical French territories, including Guadeloupe, Martinique and French Guiana.
He also found that the earliest sightings ever recorded dates back to 1999.
Professor Justine and Mr. Gros published their findings in the journal PeerJ, in which they specifically focused on the presence of hammerhead flatworm species.
These type of flatworms are predators, meaning that they can be a serious threat to small creatures living under the soil surface, as well as to the local ecological process.