It's nightmare in paradise!
The paradise in question is Mount Kinabalu in Borneo, and as immense lumps of rock go, it's an extraordinarily luscious one. From the lowland forests to the montane forests and meadows, Mount Kinabalu is home to enormous pitcher plants, gigantic Rafflesia, hundreds of orchids and thousands of other plant species, many found nowhere else on earth.
|Image: Cabreney Johnny|
After heavy rain, and it rains a lot on Mount Kinabalu, you may be shocked to find giant, bluish-grey earthworms rising to the surface. They can get some 70 cm (2 ft 4 in) long, so you probably will be quite shocked. But what if it got eaten? Not by a bird or a mammal...
But by a bright red, 50 cm (20 in) leech! A giant leech with big, bold colours so you can see exactly how giant it is!
"Look at me! Look at me! I'm a great, big leech! A great, big, nasty leech! Watch me eat. Isn't it the most disgusting thing you've ever seen? Yaaaay!"
It's like a hosepipe eating another hosepipe. The leech finds its prey by sniffing out the mucus trail earthworms leave in their wake. Once it catches up, the leech runs its wet, slimy mouth up and down the worm's wet, slimy body. Eventually it finds an end to those 2 feet of worm body and then stretches its mouth open and begins to suck the worm in like a giant, meaty spaghetti.
The worm thrashes about and attempts to drag itself out of the depths of digestive darkness but it appears completely defenceless against the leech's firm, muscular grip. The worm is eventually engulfed over the course of some 15 minutes, and the leech disappears into the undergrowth to spend about a month digesting its meal. It isn't even clear at what point the earthworm actually dies.
Sometimes leeches like this bite off more than they can chew... as it were. They don't actually bite anything. It would be better if they actually did bite off manageable pieces like a civilised creature rather than swallow the entire thing whole. But if they try to swallow something that is simply too big for them, they regurgitate the lot and some earthworms can escape that way. Escape with their lives and... memories.
If only those leeches could SEE themselves eating. They'd feel sick to the stomach and many more worms would escape!
Lots of pictures of this event over at The Iron Ammonite. If you're into that kind of thing.