What does a worm know?

they know a great deal
What does a worm know? 1991 Mixed media installation inimitables
Artwork, image and photography © Perdita Phillips the-nonhuman
3 m long x 1 m x 1 m
2 kg worms, 365.25 newspapers, horse manure and iron, 1 year
Exhibition: Degree Show 1991 Curtin University, Perth

A worm knows a great deal. It knows when to come out of the rain. When the ground becomes too sodden with moisture it seeks the upper air. It knows how to get a living and it knows how to live, as may be provided by the fact that there are far, far, more worms in England, or in any other country, than there are people. It has been estimated that there are at leas 140 kinds of worms.

The worm has no brain in which to store memories. Yet it has a memory, stored probably in its nervous system and some recent experiments have shown it. Some worms were tested in a passage shaped like a T. They crawled along the upright till the came to the crossbar of the T. About half of them turned one way and half another. Then, by putting in a mild electric current, the left hand passage of the top of the T was made disagreeable to the worms. At first they were puzzled, but after about 200 shocks they learned to prefer the right way. Then the current was put into the other leg of the T, and this time the worms learned the error of their ways in 65 times. Evidently they were cultivating a memory.

Arthur Mee’s Children’s Encyclopaedia