Do earthworms feel pain?

TallTree01

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I've always been a lover of all things great and small. Recently, I've been wondering about whether it's kinder to the earthworms to kill them and then feed them to axolotls rather than feed them and then have the axolotl kill it.
Do earthworms have the ability to make sense that it's just been eaten?

What is the most humane way of euthanising an earthworm?

I know it's all part of nature and stuff but I'd rather avoid putting an innocent creature in unnecessary pain.
Don't give me any of that ' it's just an earthworm ' **** please. One day aliens will come down and when they feed us to their pet aliens they'll say ' it's just a human ' . :p
 

Chinadog

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As I understand it, earthworms don't have the hard wear to process complex thoughts. There's no brain as such, just a simple nervous system, so although they react to being too dry, too wet or handled etc, they just can't have a concept of pain in the way more intelligent life forms do.
If dealing with worms is difficult to stomach, it's possible for axolotls to be perfectly healthy on a diet of good quality pellets, maybe it's worth looking into those instead?
 

TallTree01

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Yeah, I was hoping that would be the case. I'll be able to handle it mentally I'm sure as I've fed crickets to frogs and stuff.
Thanks for the answer. :D
 

oceanblue

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The earthworm's nervous system is fairly simple and they not seem to have any capacity to form memories of noxious stimuli which is probably what most people mean by pain - something nasty we remember.

Pellets may look painless but the fish they are produced from are more likely to feel pain than worms and the fishing may involve netting turtles, birds, dolphins etc. and recent press articles link feedstock production for prawns to trawlers manned by slaves. Revealed: Asian slave labour producing prawns for supermarkets in US, UK | Global development | The Guardian

I'm sticking with worms as my preferred main food. I tend to prioritise feeding the ones I have damaged digging the garden and chuck back surplus undamaged ones if I can! I do feed pellets and various other foods, I don't believe brine shrimp or daphnia feel pain either.
 

Tigermoth

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If you are concerned about an earthworm suffering you could either chill them or freeze them. Their bodies will shut down quite rapidly as they are cold blooded. It not so much fun for an axolotl who likes hunting as it is good to stimulate their hunting behaviour and you may very well loose some of the plumpness a live worm has too.

I for one really appreciate the fact you care so much about live foods as do I x
 

Chinadog

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I can't imagine chilling them having much effect either, I keep my nightcrawlers in the bottom of the fridge where its close to freezing point and they're just as lively as they are when freshly dug from the garden.
Freezing any cold tolerant animal while still alive causes the blood vessels under the skin to freeze and rupture before death, so if the earthworms do have any perception of pain i'm sure they would rather just be eaten alive.
 

auntiejude

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Earthworms tend to turn to mush when frozen and defrosted in my experience - they just disintegrate.
 

Fishtank1

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I dont know if they feel i mean maybe. I feel the same way as you do 100%. it was hard for me to cut them to try feeding them the the axolotls. I just stick with the frozen worms until they are big enough to gulp at once or a few gulps. I dont think they will feel pain when they go in.. I dont want to see them in pain while they twist and squirm when I cut. its sad. Maybe freeze them? :errr:
 

velasco13000

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I see that everybody here will chill the worms. What about running super hot water and putting them in the hot water?
 

seandelevan

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I don't think we may ever know what animals can and can't feel. I mean there are things we are discovering everyday that has blown the minds of previous thoughts on animal cognitive abilities. For gods sake the article below blows my mind.

ARS : News & Events

Plants send SOS signals to wasps to attack pests eating them! PLANTS! And scientists discovered a different type of wasp is contacted depending on the type of pest! PLANTS!

Run a hook through a nightcrawler and it sure does look like its in pain. A reaction? A reaction to what? Pain. If I jam my finger in the door yes I'm going to react....to pain. I just think all animals have higher pain tolerances than people.

I think most people underestimate the animal world. Even the lowly worm.
 

auntiejude

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There is a huge difference between an autonomic reaction and the ability to feel pain.
Pain requires a nervous system with pain receptors and the 'brain power' to interpret the signals within the brain.
A reaction can be automatic without the need for signal to be processed by a brain.
Even then, some responses are involuntary, such your impulse to breathe, or saliva being produced in response to certain smells.

A worm's nervous systen is not sophisticated enough to have pain receptors, and it has ganglia rather than a brain, so it won't experience pain in the same sense that vertebrates do. But they do react to touch and light (they have photoreceptors rather than eyes), and you get the same reaction whether you prod a worm gently, skewer it on a fishing hook or shine a bright light on it - all automatic responses and a crude attempt at self preservation.

Plants cannot feel pain, but they can emit a pheromone in response to trauma. The chances are that the wasps in your example have evolved to respond to that pheromone.
 

oceanblue

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It is important to distinguish a reaction from the idea of what pain is. Paraplegic humans, subjected to what would otherwise be a painful stimulus to their legs may have violent muscle contraction movements but they do not feel pain. I think people do sometimes employ wishful thinking as to what is pain to justify suffering and have doubts scientists always get it right but worms seem well on the side of not suffering or needing protection.

I'm aware of an autistic boy who runs around the lawn chasing blackbirds to prevent cruelty to worms and don't wish to join him in his disturbed view of the world. My garden is overgrown and scruffy enough without me fearing to put the spade in for fear of creating agony:confused:
 

Ezreal

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Wow, what an amazing post. Almost every point you had resonates with my opinion. To be able to discuss this topic, however, we first need to define pain. As mentioned, living creatures ought to have a reaction to negative stimuli, as it is essential to survival. Think about it, what would happen if we cannot feel pain at all and our back catches fire? We wouldn't notice until it is too late and we would die. The same applies with simple organisms like the earthworm. Yes, they only have ganglia for a brain, and yes, they have a very basic ventral nerve cord running down the length of its body. But that is not equivalent to zero pain perception. They still feel pain, just not in the same way as we do.

We just learned about phylum annelida at school, so I thought that this was the most appropriate thread to respond to. :) Again, thank you for the great post.
 
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