What is a Velvet Worm?
Velvet worms have legs like a caterpillar. Each leg can be shortened and bent by internal muscles. Isn’t that cool? Velvet worms are so different from other creatures that they are given a Phylum all of their own (a phylum is the widest possible group of similar animals) – which scientists call Onychophora. They live in forests and are very colourful. Mostly they are just 1 or 2 inches (3-5 cm) long. The Velvet worms are the only phylum which has no members that live in water! Some Velvet worms lay eggs, others don’t. They breathe through their body surface. They have two antennae. Some species of velvet worm have only one eye. There are over 100 different types of Velvet worm known, and scientists are discovering more all the time.
A typical Velvet Worm – Photograph by Bruno Vellutini
What is the largest Velvet Worm?
The largest velvet worm belongs to a species which doesn’t even have a name! It grows up to 22 cm long (9 inches), and lives in the jungles of Costa Rica. The newborn of this velvet worm is larger than the adults of most species! The giant velvet worm does not lay egg.
What do Velvet Worms eat?
Velvet worms are hunters – they’ll sneak up on a tasty insect, and squirt a sticky slime to catch it for its dinner. They are able to squirt a distance of up to 30 cm – that’s 1 foot! They have fine toothlets which they used to chew up their food. Don’t underestimate them for their size! They can even chew up a large snails.
Where do Velvet Worms live?
Velvet worms prefer dark, humid places. They are found in tropical rainforests, and as far south as Tasmania. Two species live in the cracks of the caves. Some people even like to keep Velvet worms as pets!