A giant earthworm called Dave has wriggled his way into the record books after surfacing in Cheshire.
The 40cm (15.7 inch) annelid, weighing 26g, is the size of a small snake and the largest earthworm ever found in the UK.
Paul Rees, from Widnes, spotted the huge Lumbricus terrestris in his vegetable patch and his stepson George named the worm.
Natural History Museum scientist Emma Sherlock, who chairs the Earthworm Society of Britain, said: “I was bowled over by the size of this worm when I opened the plastic box they sent it in. Not only is it really long, it is almost twice as heavy as any other wild earthworm ever seen, weighing the same as a small chocolate bar.”
Compared with Dave, the earthworms from the Scottish island of Rum that were previously thought to be the UK’s largest look positively puny.
The longest of the Scottish worms, unearthed in 2015, grew to 39.6cm (15.6 inches), but were on the skinny side, none weighing more than 12.6g.
Experts believe the earthworms of Rum flourished because of a lack of predators and rich soil.
But how Dave got to be such a size in Cheshire – three times longer and more than five times heavier than an average worm – remains a mystery.
Sherlock said: “With worms this size Paul must have an incredibly fertile and well-drained veg plot with decaying matter quickly recycled back into the soil. Earthworms are incredibly important to keep soils healthy.”
She added: “I look forward to seeing if anyone can find an even bigger example by taking part in the Earthworm Watch survey this autumn.”
Earthworm Watch is a survey of earthworms and soil quality run by the Natural History Museum and the Earthwatch Institute in association with the Earthworm Society of Britain.