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第一段

1 .This is Scientific American 60-Second Science. I'm Christopher Intagliata.

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2 .Charles Darwin is, most famously, the author of The Origin of Species.

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3 .But the last book he ever wrote gets far less attention today.

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4 .It's called The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms.

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5 .And earthworms were a passion: he wrote about their habits, their soil-tilling abilities, and even kept pots of worm-filled soil in his study.

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6 .But his fascination was met with ridicule by some.

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7 ."There's a famous cartoon where Darwin as an old man is in the middle.

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8 .And he evolves from monkeys and the monkeys evolved from earthworms."

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9 .Olaf Schmidt is a soil ecologist at University College Dublin.

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10 .And not among those who would criticize Darwin for his interests.

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11 ."I love earthworms, earthworms are brilliant.

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12 .They're our friends, they're really important."

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13 .One particularly interesting group of worms, he says, are the so-called "anecic" worms: the deep soil dwellers.

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14 ."And they live all their life in a single vertical channel in the soil.

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15 .And at night they surface," looking for food¡ªmanure, straw, stuff like that, "and they pull it into their channels."

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16 .They're big boys.

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17 .Which makes them especially vulnerable to the plow.

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18 ."You know they're so big, so they're chopped, exposed to birds, and their channels are destroyed."

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19 .Schmidt and his colleague Maria Briones analyzed the relationship between tilling and the health of a dozen species of earthworms.

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20 .They looked at 65 years'-worth of farm field studies, spanning the globe.

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21 .And they found that in heavily plowed fields, half the earthworms had disappeared.

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22 .But when farmers switched to no-till or conservation agriculture, worm populations wriggled back to normal numbers after about a decade.

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23 .The study is in the journal Global Change Biology.

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24 ."The plow," Darwin wrote, "is one of the most ancient and most valuable of man's inventions;

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25 .but long before he existed the land was in fact regularly plowed, and still continues to be thus plowed by earthworms."

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26 .And, Schmidt says, just as the worms look after the soil, the flip side's true, too.

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27 ."If you look after the soil, you also look after the earthworms. So it is a good-news story."

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28 .Thanks for listening, for Scientific American 60-Second Science. I'm Christopher Intagliata.

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