Location of Repository

Self-Assemblage and Quorum in the Earthworm Eisenia fetida (Oligochaete, Lumbricidae)

By Lara Zirbes, Yves Brostaux, Mark Mescher, Maxime Jason, Eric Haubruge and Jean-Louis Deneubourg


Despite their ubiquity and ecological significance in temperate ecosystems, the behavioural ecology of earthworms is not well described. This study examines the mechanisms that govern aggregation behaviour specially the tendency of individuals to leave or join groups in the compost earthworm Eisenia fetida, a species with considerable economic importance, especially in waste management applications. Through behavioural assays combined with mathematical modelling, we provide the first evidence of self-assembled social structures in earthworms and describe key mechanisms involved in cluster formation. We found that the probability of an individual joining a group increased with group size, while the probability of leaving decreased. Moreover, attraction to groups located at a distance was observed, suggesting a role for volatile cues in cluster formation. The size of earthworm clusters appears to be a key factor determining the stability of the group. These findings enhance our understanding of intra-specific interactions in earthworms and have potential implications for extraction and collection of earthworms in vermicomposting processes

Topics: Research Article
Publisher: Public Library of Science
OAI identifier: oai:pubmedcentral.nih.gov:3291560
Provided by: PubMed Central
Download PDF:
Sorry, we are unable to provide the full text but you may find it at the following location(s):
  • http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.g... (external link)
  • Suggested articles



    1. (1881) The formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms, with Observations of their Habits.
    2. (2004). A Basis for Spatial and Social Patterns in Ant Species: Dynamics and Mechanisms of Aggregation.
    3. (2010). A New Case of Consensual Decision: Collective Movement in Earthworms.
    4. (1999). Aggregation density and longevity correlate with humidity in first instar nymphs of the cockroach
    5. (1931). Animal aggregation: a study in general sociology. Chicago:
    6. (2008). Automated detection and analysis of foraging behavior in Caenorhabditis elegans.
    7. (2010). Belowground volatiles facilitate interactions between plant roots and soil organisms.
    8. (2009). Biogenic volatile organic compounds in the earth system.
    9. (1996). Biology and Ecology of Earthworms. London: Chapman and Hall.
    10. (1998). Clustering reduces water loss by adult American house dust mites Dermatophagoides farinae (Acari: Pyroglyphidae).
    11. (2004). Cockroach aggregation based on strain odour recognition.
    12. (2006). Collegial decision making based on social amplification leads to optimal group formation.
    13. (2009). Complex Dynamics Based on a Quorum: Decision-Making Process by Cockroaches in a Patchy Environment.
    14. (1999). Complexity, pattern, and evolutionary trade-offs in animal aggregation.
    15. (1980). Diffusion and ecological problems: mathematical models.
    16. (2006). Dissection of the mechanisms of cytolytic and antibacterial activity of lysenin, a defence protein of the annelid Eisenia fetida.
    17. (1999). Earthworm management in tropical agrosystems.
    18. (2011). Earthworms use odor cues to locate and feed on microorganisms in soil.
    19. (1985). Earthworms: Their ecology and relationships with soil and land use.
    20. (2005). Information and its use by animals in evolutionary ecology.
    21. (2009). Inter- and intraspecific interactions in lumbricid earthworms: Their role for earthworm performance and ecosystem functioning.
    22. (2000). Kacelnik A
    23. (1997). Le Maho Y
    24. (1978). Living in group: predators and prey.
    25. (1984). Living in groups: is there an optimal group size? In:
    26. (2002). Living in groups.
    27. (1999). Models for tuna school formation.
    28. (2004). Modulation of individual behavior and collective decision-making during aggregation site selection by the ant Messor barbarus.
    29. (1967). Notes on the activity of earthworms. V. Some causes of mass migration.
    30. (2005). Pheromone-Mediated Aggregation in Nonsocial Arthropods: An Evolutionary Ecological Perspective.
    31. (1949). Principles of animal ecology.
    32. (2009). Quorum responses and consensus decision making.
    33. (2005). Recruitement of entomopathogenic nematodes by insect-damaged maize roots.
    34. (2011). Scalable rules for coherent group motion in a gregarious vertebrate.
    35. (2009). Searching and oviposition behavior of aphidophagous hoverflies (Diptera: Syrphidae).
    36. (2004). Self-assemblage formation in a social insect: the protective curtain of a honey bee swarm.
    37. (2002). Self-assemblages in insect societies.
    38. (2001). Self-Organization in Biological Systems.
    39. (2008). Social behavior of bacteria: from physics to complex organization.
    40. (2002). Social feeding in Caenorhabditis elegans is induced by neurons that detect aversive stimuli.
    41. (2007). Social Integration of Robots into Groups of Cockroaches to Control Self-Organized Choices.
    42. (2001). Spatial distribution of earthworms in acidsoil savannas of the eastern plains of Colombia.
    43. (2002). Spatial patterns in ant colonies.
    44. (1977). Strate ´gies lombriciennes.
    45. (2005). The dawn of the dew worm.
    46. (2003). The effect of ambient temperature on intraspecific interactions controlling heat tolerance in the Oligochaetes Enchytraeus albidus and Tubifex tubifex.
    47. (1980). The effect of group size on predator avoidance in a marine insect.
    48. (1990). The influence of worm density on growth and cocoon production of the compost worm Eisenia fetida (Oligochaeta).
    49. (1997). The mating behaviour of the earthworm Lumbricus terrestris (Oligochaeta: Lumbricidae).
    50. (1961). The Orientation of animals - kineses, taxes and compass reactions Dover Publications Inc.; Ezpanded Edition.
    51. (2006). The other insect societies. Cambridge:
    52. (1983). The structure of earthworm communities.
    53. (2005). The use of earthworms in ecological soil classification and assessment concepts.
    54. (1994). The use of Taylor’s Power Law to describe the aggregated distribution of earthworms in permanent pasture and arable soil in Scotland.
    55. (2004). Tracking and predation on earthworms by the invasive terrestrial planarian Bipalium adventitium (Tricladida,

    To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.