Hammerhead Worms in Chennai, India

I spotted a slimy black worm in this rivulet. Errr... Emmmm.... Well, this is the long shot of the same rivulet. Its called 'My Backyard'!!! I loved the way my backyard looked just after rain. And as I was roaming about there, I spotted this black slimy worm with a thin, wide, flat head which I had never spotted before. Not exactly in the mud or water, but on the cement flooring beside this. After taking a couple of shots, I picked this up on a leaf & left it in the soil. Its called a Hammerhead worm. So, here's the hammerhead worm facts and information I could find online, for a basic idea of what they are! 

Land Planarians Hammerhead worm

Land Planarians Hammerhead worm

Land Planarians Hammerhead worm

Land Planarians Hammerhead worm

Land Planarians Hammerhead worm

WHAT IS A HAMMERHEAD WORM? Hammerhead worms belong to the land planarian category. Scientifically it belongs to the Bipalium genus and I'm unaware of the species this particular black Bipalium belongs to. It pretty much reminded me of Hammerhead sharks!

FOOD HABITS OF HAMMERHEAD WORMS: Bipalium is predatory in nature means they kill and eat their prey. So, what's their primary prey? Earthworms!!! Hammerhead worms eat earthworms!!! 

ARE HAMMERHEAD WORMS POISONOUS? It doesn't look like they are poisonous to humans, but some species of the Bipalium genus have been discovered to secrete a mild neurotoxin that would help them to kill their prey, earthworms! This very reason makes these worms safe from other predators like birds or fishes which don't eat them!

HAMMERHEAD WORMS HABITAT: There are 170 speicies of this worm and there are seen esp. at Indo- Malaysian and South East Asiatic regions and also in North America where its considered nuisance in Earthworm rearing regions!!! I found this at my home in Chennai, in southern India. 

Land Planarians Hammerhead worm Land Planarians Hammerhead worm


An ardent traveler by passion. Being an ex - Art History Teacher, my area of interest especially lies in Nature and Heritage. Visited 85 UNESCO World Heritage sites as of June 2022. I've been listed among the Top 7 Women Travel Bloggers of India, Top 50 in UK. I have been interviewed in a couple of TV Shows, Radio Channels and Events as well. Read more about me and read the testimonials of different brands


  1. Wow , nice read about this worm. Thanks for sharing .

  2. hey!! Am following you here as well...this is such a cute blog...I love the way you express yourself,its simple and honest...keep going :)

  3. Wow, the first I've seen. I know of hammerhead shark, this is something else. Amazing and thank you for sharing. How are you Busha?

  4. Oh God, my yard is infested with these - AND earthworms. And maravattais. And kambili poochis. And snakes. And..oh forget it - I live in a protected woods area, what am I complaining about?

    What I hate about these is that they are so slimy and if you happen to inadvertantly step on those, they stick everywhere. Oh God !

    Excuse me, I have a thing about worms- they make my stomach clench.

  5. You got some great shots Mitr, but its a horrible looking thing.{:)

  6. Predatory Flatworm – Bipalium Sps

    This is a creature that should genuinely strike fear into the hearts of any worm farmers who found them in their worm beds – the dreaded land planarian (aka ‘flatworm’ or ‘shovel head worm’). We got to see these slimy suckers at the Forest Guest House, in Bondla Sanctuary, Goa a little while ago.

    It has been identified as Bipalium kewense, a relatively common flatworm species that is native to India and China. These worms belong to the Phylum Platyhelminthes, or flatworms because of their flattened bodies. Many flatworms are parasitic, but the Shovel-headed Garden Worm is a free-living terrestrial species.

    Land planarians can be a serious earthworm predator in certain parts of the world – generally they are more of a threat in warmer regions, but certain species are found in more temperate zones as well. They are particularly dangerous because they can reproduce incredibly quickly, and have been reported to wipe out an entire worm population (in a worm farm) in a matter of days! When earthworms are not to be seen, they turn cannibalistic!

    Worm farming friend informs me of his experience with flatworms, claiming they wiped out 0ver 100 kg of worms in less than a week, before proceeding to feed on each other!

    He also informs me that there isn’t any reliable answer to get rid of these worms once they are established, since they also have similar requirements (moisture, darkness etc) to those of the earthworms! If you are rearing earthworms, and if you see any of these, be sure to remove and kill them right away! Also, it would not a bad idea to move your worms to a more secure location (an indoor bin perhaps) so you at least have a partial insurance policy!

    In addition to its peculiar shovel-shaped head, the Shovel-headed Garden Worm has a long, soft, flattened body (a few millimetres in width) with five longitudinal dark brown stripes, which vary in their distinctiveness and width. One of these bands runs along the upper midline and there is a dark patch in the neck region. These worms are light ochre-yellow on the upperside and greyish white or pinky grey on the underside. As they move along, they excrete large amounts of slimy mucus from glands in the body wall, and wave their heads from side to side. They slide over this mucus carpet by the action of closely spaced, tiny hairs which are found in a strip on the underside. If they migrate onto plants, or other objects, they can lower themselves back to the ground by a string of mucus.

    The Shovel-headed Garden Worm, like other flatworms, does not have a respiratory or circulatory system, a skeleton, or an anus. The mouth, which also serves as the anus, is found near the middle of the body on the lower, or ventral, side. It has a protruding muscular pharynx that is used as a feeding organ;

    Size range
    Body length up to 30 cm, body width 3 mm

    They avoid light and require high humidity, and thus are confined to dark, cool, moist areas, under objects such as rocks, logs, leaf litter and other debris.

    They are nocturnal and hide during the day, emerging only at night to feed.

    Like other flatworms, reproduction takes place mainly by the Shovel-headed Garden Worm splitting into parts from the tail end. This method of asexual reproduction is called fission. The sides pinch in about a centimetre from the tip of the tail. The tail piece breaks off when it sticks to the substrate and the parent worm pulls away. The broken fragment can move about immediately, and a head begins to form within a week to ten days. A couple of fragments break from a parent worm every few weeks.

    Shovel-headed Garden Worms have few enemies because their slimy secretions appear to be distasteful, if not toxic. They may, however, be eaten by other flatworms.

  7. That's a informative post. Thanks also to Ramjee Nagarajan for the detailed write up on the subject.

  8. @Team G Square,
    Its my pleasure dears. Glad you liked them...

    Thanks a lot for visiting, following and commenting dear.. It encourages me a lot... :)
    Thanks for your appreciation... :)

    @Baby pose,
    Indeed it was!!!

    I am fine dear. Thanks for the concern... :)
    And yeah, it was so new to me too, thats why I ran it to grab the camera as soon as I spotted it...

    Thanks dear... :)

  9. @LG,
    Oh........ Where are you put up???

    For a bird watcher that's you, slimy looking insect sadly looks horrible!!!!!

    Thank you so much for the detailed info.. :)

    @Rajesh & Ram Sir,
    Thank you so much...

    Thanks sweety.. :)

  10. I saw this in my lawn today and Google helped me to identify it. On searching its habitat in India, I could only fine few references and your page came up at the top. Thanks for putting this up on your blog. I am yet to find any study about its spread in India and what its impact is in ecosystem...Thanks again.

    1. Glad I could help you with it! All the best with your research and do impart some knowledge for us too!

  11. I got one in Pondicherry...


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