How Do Earthworms Digest Food?

earthworms-digest-food Credit: Ed Reschke/Photolibrary/Getty Images

An earthworm's food is consumed, stored and broken down inside its digestive tube, which starts at the mouth and ends at the anus. Along the way, ingested soil is ground down to finer particles, allowing blood vessels in the intestine to absorb nutrient-rich organic matter.

As earthworms tunnel through the ground, ingested dirt is sucked into the pharynx and passed from the esophagus to the crop, a temporary storehouse. In the gizzard, small pebbles previously consumed by the earthworm help to break down dirt before releasing it into the intestine. Intestinal blood vessels extract and distribute nutrients throughout body, passing the undigested dirt to the anus as waste.