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Worm Wars! Invasive species and the stories we tell about them


When Nora Saks learned that a "toxic, self-cloning worm that poops out of its mouth was invading Maine", she started sounding the alarm about the impending eco-doom. Until, that is, state experts clued her into the "real threat"; a different creepy crawly wriggling towards The Pine Tree State's gardens and precious forests, and fast.

In an attempt to find out more about this real threat, Ben Brock Johnson and Nora tunnel down a wormhole, encountering a long history of xenophobic rhetoric about so-called invasive species, and some hard truths about the field of invasion biology itself.

This week we’re featuring a story from our friend at WBUR’s Endless Thread, a podcast that digs into the internet's vast and curious ecosystem of online communities to find untold histories, unsolved mysteries, and other jaw-dropping stories online and IRL.

Featuring: Banu Subramaniam, Dov Sax, Bob McNally, Gary Fish, and Regina Smith


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Endless Thread (WBUR)

"A toxic, self-cloning worm that poops out of its mouth is invading Maine" (Bangor Daily News)

Reddit post on r/oddlyterrifying about hammerhead worms

lindsaynikole's viral TikTok video on hammerhead worms

"The Aliens Have Landed! Reflections on the Rhetoric of Biological Invasions", Banu Subramaniam

The Sax Research Lab at Brown University

Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry fact sheet on jumping worms

"Identify and Report Jumping Worms in Maine", UMaine Cooperative Forestry Research Unit informational video

Cornell University fact sheet on Asian Jumping Worms

UMass Extension Invasive Jumping Worm FAQ

"Cancel Earthworms" (The Atlantic)

"Invasive 'Jumping Worms' Threaten Trees in Maine and Elsewhere" (NECN)

"Scientists Sound The Alarm About Invasive 'Crazy Worms' Found in Maine" (Maine Public)

"Maine Gardener: Invasion of the jumping worms" (Portland Press Herald)


This episode was produced by Nora Saks and Dean Russell of WBUR’s Endless Thread

Co-hosts: Nora Saks and Ben Brock Johnson.

Mix and sound design: Matt Reed

Endless Thread’s team includes Amory Sivertson, Dean Russell, Quincy Walters, Grace Tatter,

Amy Gorel, Paul Vaitkus, and Emily Jankowski

Outside/In is hosted by Nate Hegyi, and produced by Taylor Quimby, Justine Paradis, Felix Poon, and Jessica Hunt.

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