I am very curious about this question. I got this doubt when I was studying anatomy and physiology of the earthworm Lampito mauritii. It breathes through its skin (cutaneous respiration) and if we cover its body with a wet cloth and all the necessary external openings are left uncovered (such as nephridia and other genital pores) then will the earthworm survive?

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    $\begingroup$ Assuming it still has access to oxygen through the wet cloth, and the moisture content remains constant, I don't see any reason why it wouldn't survive... $\endgroup$ – MattDMo Jun 29 '14 at 16:08
  • $\begingroup$ i can't get your point do you mean that earthworm will survive that situation $\endgroup$ – agha rehan abbas Jun 29 '14 at 16:23
  • $\begingroup$ sorry, it was a double negative. Yes, given sufficient oxygen and a steady supply of moisture, the worm should be able to survive quite happily for some time. $\endgroup$ – MattDMo Jun 29 '14 at 16:24
  • $\begingroup$ but how would it respire in such watery environment ? $\endgroup$ – agha rehan abbas Jun 29 '14 at 16:25
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    $\begingroup$ If it's submerged, it won't be able to. But, if the environment is just damp, it will be fine. It's the difference between covering it with a soaking-wet paper towel, and one that has been dampened, then squeezed out some. $\endgroup$ – MattDMo Jun 29 '14 at 16:27

This is one of those speculative questions where you don't have a definite answer unless you specifically experiment and find out for yourself.

It is a known fact that earthworms breathe through diffusion. It has a thin cuticle over its body and requires moist skin which is achieved by a slimy mucous (reference). It is interesting to note that earthworms are also capable of going into a state of hibernation called estivation (in American english) (reference) which helps them maintain a low metabolic state.

Since you are planning to cover it with a cloth, the material of the cloth also matters. It has to be a material with low breathability. For eg: the survivability of the worm would depend on if you were using a wool or a silk cloth to cover it. Here is an article on the breathability of different fabrics (reference).

In conclusion, I would take a guess that it should survive if the material let air pass through and would go into a state of estivation on low availability of oxygen but maybe not die. After all, they are said to be able to survive even in water if it contains enough available oxygen. (reference).

  • $\begingroup$ this might be a different question but what would happen to the earthworm if you dry it using a wet cloth and then at the same instant make its skin wet by applying water ? $\endgroup$ – agha rehan abbas Jun 30 '14 at 8:07
  • $\begingroup$ @agharehanabbas It would survive again. There should be a little bit of time and direct exposure to sunlight to get it sun-dried. $\endgroup$ – The Last Word Jun 30 '14 at 8:34
  • $\begingroup$ but i think that would effect its repiratory rate and doing so continuously would kill him $\endgroup$ – agha rehan abbas Jun 30 '14 at 8:36
  • $\begingroup$ @agharehanabbas It has the ability to produce slime to stay wet on its own and moreover, you make it wet by applying water as soon as it dries which is hardly enough time to effect its respiration. In my answer I have already mentioned that it is able to survive underwater and also go into hibernation. $\endgroup$ – The Last Word Jun 30 '14 at 8:39

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