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Velvet Worms

Velvet Worms

Velvet worm
Velvet Worm
Photographer - Alan Yen

Peripatus sp.

Velvet Worms are soft-bodied worm-like animals, but unlike worms, they have paired legs along the length of the body and a pair of antennae on the head.

They are commonly about two to four centimetres in length. They move with a characteristic flowing movement caused by the alternation of fluid pressure in the limbs as they extend and retract along the body.

The other common name 'Peripatus' is also the genus name, and refers to this wandering movement.

They are carnivorous, ensnaring their prey with sticky slime squirted from pores on either side of the head, then biting pieces off the beetle, cricket, spider, wood louse or cockroach.

Their permeable skin renders them liable to drying out, so they are restricted to moist micro-habitats, such as the Wet Forests and Cool Temperate Rainforests.

Velvet Worms have remained remarkably unchanged over 300 million years, and are still found in southern land masses which were once part of the Gondwana supercontinent.

Since continental separation, their dependence on gradually contracting and fragmenting moist habitats has meant populations became separated. This has led to the evolution of a large number of species, many of which remain undescribed by science.

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