Can Local Enhancement in Earthworms Affect the Outcome of the Standard Earthworm Avoidance Test?

  • A. H. Stander
  • A. le Roux
  • P. Voua OtomoEmail author


Earthworms exhibit clumping behaviour in and out of the soil. However, it remains unknown if such social behaviour ultimately influences the outcome of ecotoxicological experiments in the laboratory. We performed several overnight avoidance tests to determine whether social behaviour (i.e., local enhancement) is a factor in pollution avoidance behaviour in the earthworm Eisenia fetida. The results showed that there was no clear influence of social behaviour on the choice or avoidance of Cd contaminated soils, although we suspect that 50 mg Cd/kg might not have been high enough to elicit a significant avoidance response. Nevertheless, when offered a choice between clean undisturbed soil and previously inhabited soil, the worms preferred the previously inhabited soil (p < 0.01). While the level of metal pollution investigated in this study did not disrupt or help predict social dynamics, local enhancement, perhaps driven by some sort of habitat imprinting, was successfully documented in Eisenia fetida.


Avoidance behaviour Avoidance test Cadmium Earthworms Ecotoxicology 



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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Zoology & EntomologyUniversity of the Free StatePhuthaditjhabaSouth Africa
  2. 2.Afromontane Research UnitUniversity of the Free StatePhuthaditjhabaSouth Africa

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