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Worms are highly adaptable and can be found in almost every environment on Earth, they can even live in hostile environments such as deep sea hydrothermal vents and ice-cold Antarctic waters.

Worms are invertebrate animals which breathe through their skin and they can have one or two body cavities where they ingest food and excrete waste.

Worms are divided into three groups - flatworms, segmented worms and roundworms, all of which have a long, soft body with no legs.

Flatworms (also known as platyhelminthes) have a flat shape because they do not have specialised respiratory systems. Encounter the Shovel-headed Garden worm and wonder at how these worms managed to colonise Australian habitats through the distribution of potted-plants.

Earthworms are segmented worms (also called annelids), which means they have the same, repetitive set of organs in each segment. Learn what earthworms do to help our environment and why they are so important to the health of our ecosystems. Be puzzled by why some leeches can undergo dramatic colour changes that do not appear to be for camoflauge. Find out more about unsegmented worms (also known as nematodes or roundworms) and learn about the important role they play in the nitrogen cycle and how they effectively regulate bacterial populations in the soil.


Worms in our collections

A large and important collection from Australia and the Indo-Pacific. The current focus of the collection is on polychaetes (segmented worms) and crustaceans (lobsters, crayfish, prawns, crabs, seed shrimps, barnacles, slaters and pill bugs) which reflects the research interests of the marine invertebrate staff. Discover more about the collection:

Australian Museum Marine Invertebrate Collections

Marine Invertebrate Collections - Taxonomic groups


Segmented worms

Phylum Annelida includes earthworms, marine bristle worms and leeches.



Worm factsheets

7 Fact Sheets in this section

Polychaetes research


Polychaetes photography

View the work of professional underwater photographers and research scientists who are fascinated by the beauty and variety, as well as the reproductive, developmental and feeding habits of polychaete worms. Although polychaetes play a crucial role in marine ecosystems along with crustaceans, echinoderms, and molluscs, their delicate beauty is often undeservingly under-appreciated.