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By Phil Hall | January 5, 2013

Randall Wood’s documentary goes underground – literally – in search of the earthworms. The film presents a globetrotting research a group of taxonomists who are billed as the “world’s top earthworm scientists,” and these folks take their worm hunts very seriously. And for one expert in South Africa, the earthworm hunt flirts with grave danger: the scientist goes into the wild and vigorously uproots soil with a shovel while rifle-bearing hunters form a protective circle to ward off predatory creatures.

But, ultimately, it might be worthwhile: there are 6,000 known species of earthworms, and perhaps several thousand that have yet to be identified, and science has only recently been able to successful plumb the earthworm’s positive impact on the global ecosystem. However, time might not be on the earthworm’s side: reckless commercial over-development, which has already created environmental disasters around the world, threatens to imperil the survival of many earthworm species.

It is all very compelling, and Wood presents the information in a user-friendly manner that can be easily understood by those who are unfamiliar with the ecological sciences involved in this story. If there is a downside, it would be the relentlessly cheery on-camera narration by British taxonomist Emma Sherlock – while her enthusiasm might be sincere, her excessive joviality becomes a bit wearisome.

Nonetheless, the enigmatic earthworms and their indefatigable human advocates manage to keep the film’s focus in place.

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