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Sand Worm

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Shai-Hulud, the Great Maker, the Grandfather of the Desert, the Worm Who Is God.
"The enormous Amorbis can move through solid rock and earth with ease, and can sense the location of surface-level prey deep within the ground."
— Scan Data for Amorbis, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes

So you're traveling the desert. A dangerous place, isn't it? You've got dehydration and heatstroke to worry about of course, and that's not getting to how it seems like Everything Is Trying to Kill You - scorpions, snakes, pack animals of dubious trustworthiness, and native peoples who may be ruthlessly territorial or just poorly disposed toward your particular ethnicity. But if you think that these are all you have got to worry about, check your setting. If you are somewhere other than Earth, be it a sci-fi or fantasy world, then tread softly, without rhythm, and check the ground often. Because you may just wind up with a case of Sand Worms.

Scaled-up versions of real-life worms, these beasties tunnel through sand and dirt, being halted only by rocky terrain or artificial ground, though often enough they can force their way through that as well. They generally have no eyes or ears, rather detecting vibrations through their bodies. Beyond these basic traits, even the most incidental similarity to real creatures ceases. Sandworms are big, typically ranging between man-sized and resembling something like a moving mountain. They seem to be carnivorous since they tend to go out of their way to attack and eat anything trudging upon the surface, either leaping without warning to swallow the prey whole or approaching with a telltale furrow of disturbed earth, depending on whether the writers want to give the target a chance to run away. Aside from the worm-like shape, these monsters are also recognizable by their mouths: they are always either completely round or trifurcated, lined with rows of teeth, and with long tentacular tongues, the better to grab you by the feet and reel you in.

Intelligence varies but is usually pretty animalistic. They may be loners or travel in packs, again depending on how threatening the writers want them. Since they hunt almost exclusively by dint of sound transferred through the ground, they can be diverted by standing still or setting off something loud and percussive a ways off.

Similar monsters can be found in snow or water. These are, perhaps, a bit more believable.

Even in the best of cases, these are obvious instances of artistic license; it simply isn't possible for a creature so dense and large to pass that easily through heavy earth, even if it is fine sand. Failure to observe the Square-Cube Law also applies, especially in larger cases, and especially since worms don't have any internal support structure such as a skeleton. (Exceptions may be made for low-gravity worlds and/or worms with a Bizarre Alien Biology.) Not to mention how does that thing sustain itself? They are usually depicted as being carnivorous, and huge. Nothing is even close to its size, and it doesn't feed that often. Even so, it would be sustaining itself on creatures less than a hundredth its size. And it lives in deserts, which have much less biomass than other biomes.

Though when you think about it, they are kind of like scaled-up, desert-dwelling earthworms.

The bigger ones are a type of Kaiju. In video games, this is a common type of Mole Monster. Compare Space Whale, Flying Seafood Special, Drill Tank, Antlion Monster, and Land Shark. See also Wormsign.

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Bakugan: Wormquake is a gigantic earthworm-like Com Mon that can burrow itself underground to attack it’s enemies from below.
  • The Big O: In episode 17 "Leviathan", the title megadeus is a giant mechanical version.
  • Bleach: The hollow Bawabawa acts like one of these in desert-like Hueco Mundo, including giving the protagonists a ride to Las Noches.
  • Mister from Coyote Ragtime Show takes advantage of Sand Worms as weapons against the 12 Sisters.
  • Excel♡Saga: Sand worms appeared when Excel fell through a trapdoor and came out in a desert.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi has sand worms controlled by a naughtier Paio II who turned out to be an extremely naughty little girl.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's had a desert planet that contained these which the Wolkenritter extracted Mana from. Pretty powerful too, considering how one of them almost killed Signum.
  • Though shaped more like a lobster, Renocraft in the Monster Farm/Monster Rancher anime digs through the sand and targets its prey much like a sandworm.
  • Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind: According to Miyazaki himself, the Ohmus are partly inspired by Dune's Sandworms, though they don't really burrow and look more like pillbugs. The name is actually a dual pun on both "King Bug" (Oh-Mushi) and the way Sandworm is pronounced in Japanese (Sando Uohmu).
  • Sands of Destruction has sand whales. They look like large, green worms with flippers and vaguely whale-like heads. The anime mentions that they're attracted to sound, as it's difficult to actually see in the sand.
  • Space Runaway Ideon: On some occasions, sandworms appear.
  • In Trigun, Sandworms are apparently the dominant native species on the planet; in the manga, they play a fairly major part in the story, because they are sentient and able to communicate with one another telepathically.
  • Vexille uses this, in the form of Jags, giant revolving tubes of scrap metal that make their way across the desert outside Tokyo. They eat more metal to survive, which means that it's really not a good idea to drive cars out there. Also, the reason why there's a "giant concrete gate" outside the main city. They also die when they fall into the water, a fact that is used to great effect in the movie.
  • In the first trial of Yu-Gi-Oh!: Capsule Monsters, Yugi and his friends have to battle such worms in the middle of a sandstorm. To make it worse, anyone who gets hit by their vomit gets Taken for Granite.

    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • Behold the Thermopod, a giant slug that is not unlike D&D's Remorhaz. This one actually has a plentiful supply of caribou and goblins to feed on, though.
    • Also of note is the Wurm creature type. These can vary quite a bit from creature to creature, but generally resemble either enormous, limbless dragons or gigantic wormlike beasts. Being chiefly Green creatures, most live in forests and jungles, but there are also a few more traditional desert-dwelling wurms as well. The ones native to Amonkhet hew closest to the traditional Dune archetype, being titanic, wormlike beasts who lurk beneath the dunes to lunge at prey passing above.
      A sandwurm can lie in wait beneath the sands for years until the slightest tremor alerts it to the presence of prey.Flavor Text for Greater Sandwurm
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, the Medusa Worm is a card that, when flip summoned, can destroy an opponent's monster. You can then flip it back down so it can eat your opponent's monsters again the next turn.

    Comic Books 
  • The Mighty Thor: The Asgardian desert has giant sand worms.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics): In the original Knuckles the Echidna mini-series, Knuckles encountered a sand worm in the Floating Island's desert, Sandopolis Zone.
  • In Superman series DC Retroactive Superman, the "Cruiser" is a genetically-engineered, blind, worm-like burrowing creature whose huge mouth, shark-like rows of teeth, tiny clawed upper limbs, and corrosive skin secretions allow it to burrow through bedrock at great speed.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): The scavenger worms on Hope's End, whose mouths are ringed with arachnid-looking legs to better pull bodies in.

    Fan Works 
  • Ice and Fire (Minecraft): Death worms are huge wormlike monsters found in deserts, and can move freely through sand blocks. They will attack anything that comes near them using their long, lashing tongues, but can be tricked into eating TNT to kill them. They can hatched from eggs dropped by slain adults; they're minuscule at birth, but can grow into some of the biggest creatures in the mod. Their skin can be used to make armor, and alongside their tongue can be used to make a lashing gauntlet.
  • Pokemon: Shadow of Time: Emphasis is placed on Gible's status as a land-shark, to the extent that the Jaws theme plays whenever he's digging through the ground.
  • Pure Light: The golem used by the dark army during its attack on Warfang is a huge, rocky-skinned worm with a reptilian head that can swiftly burrow through soil and rock.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Beetlejuice was taken out by one of another iconic sandworm species that lived on Saturn. These had white-and-black stripes and one mouth inside another- compare the xenomorphs of the Alien movies.
  • The Dune film by David Lynch helped codify their typical appearance. They're also a Fantastic Cavalry.
  • The sand worm design in Denis Villeneuve's Dune and Dune: Part Two eschews the pedipalps for a Lamprey Mouth, but its massive scale is perhaps the best rendered out of all examples on this page, thanks to flawless CGI. The films also add an additional explanation as to how the sand worms can swim through sand, namely that the sandworms use the real life process of fluidization (where sand can be made to act like a liquid by blowing air through it), which also means the sandworms are living quicksand generators.
  • In The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Azog employs were-worms, massive, rock-eating giant worms which he used to burrow a tunnel to Erebor as a quick route for his troops. They didn't actually participate in the battle, because then the heroes would have been completely outmatched.
  • The titular monster from the Chinese sci-fi film, Land Shark, a kaiju-sized shark created from an experiment gone wrong. It needs to be seen to believe.
  • Love And Monsters: One of the monsters Joel encounters on his journey are burrowing lamprey-like predators known as Sand-Gobblers First, he lands in a pit filled with baby Sand-Gobblers, which swarm him like piranhas, and he later encounters the much larger Sand-Gobbler Queen, which is able to swim through dirt like a shark through water, complete with a Shark Fin of Doom.
  • Jeff from Men in Black II, though he uses tunnels which are already built (the NYC subway).
  • Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn: Deep in Nomad territory, Dogen and Rhodes are attacked by a sand-swimming snake that almost drags Rhodes underground before Dogen shoots it.
  • The Sci Fi Channel movie Sand Serpents has gigantic sand worms accidentally awakened by a fire fight between soldiers and Taliban.
  • Star Wars:
    • The Empire Strikes Back, where the Millennium Falcon lands inside one - well, inside of an Asteroid Worm - and barely escapes.
    • The Force Awakens has a more conventional sand worm on Jakku called the nightwatcher worm. All we see of it is its disproportionately tiny eyestalk that belies its true size, but supplementary material confirms it's at least 20 meters if not much bigger.
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon introduces The Driller, which is essentially a Mechanical Lifeform version of a sandworm. They're supposedly Cybertron's apex predators. Shockwave has one as a "pet".
  • Tremors reinvented the trope to drastic degrees. Indeed, the Graboids weren't really wormlike at all except in basic principles, and asserted the predatorial habits that have made Sandworms the monster-movie favorite they are now.
    • They made some nice theoretical background for the series, though. They "swim" through the ground through the use of thousands of little "spines" on their sides pushing the ground, they must retreat from explosions due to sheer pain from vibrational shock, and they have a brilliantly executed life cycle; the Sandworms which show up on seismometers, then mini-velociraptors with infrared-vision, then organic rocket-critters which carry the eggs to other areas.
    • The website explained that their initial classification as "pre-Cambrian" life was incorrect, and graboids actually evolved from squid or cuttlefish-like organisms that adapted to drier habitats (such as by losing the eyes and relying on other senses). This theoretical background was rather well thought out even if it did have its flaws. The squid/cuttlefish connection does make a lot of sense when you look at the Graboids' anatomy and intelligent behavior.
  • The "Land Shark" variety of this trope shows up at the end of the trashy, So Bad, It's Good Taiwanese movie, Zodiac Fighters. The main villain is an aquatic-themed martial arts warlord whose minions are adorned in armour resembling crabs and swordfishes, and his throne is adorned with mechanical sharks which he sics on the good guys in the final battle. These sharks can either fly or tunnel into the sands of the beaches where the final battle occurs, and give the heroes a difficult time in the final battle.


  • After Man: A Zoology of the Future: Desert sharks are sausage-shaped, hairless mammals descended from insectivores, which spend most of their time hiding beneath the sand to avoid the desert heat. They swim through the sand with their strong, paddle-shaped limbs and feed on rodents whose burrows their track down by smell.
  • Alien in a Small Town has the Great Striped Hoon. Like most creatures from the Jan's homeworld (including the sapient inhabitants), it's silicon based, can burrow, and has trilateral symmetry. It's described as more catarpillar-shaped than worm-like, capable of moving across the surface as well as tunneling. Its tripartite mouth is long, bone-colored, and has strange whorls making it resemble a three-way reflection of a cow or horse skull. They use sound as a weapon, projecting deafening blasts into the ground that can stun sonar-using beings like the Jan. They prey on the Jan and have "almost totemic" significance to them — the Jan deliberately bring a few to any planet they colonize, figuring that having these a few of these monsters prowling around keeps them on their toes and prevents sloth and decadence.
  • One of the many misadventures in Book of Brownies sees the brownie trio, Hop, Skip and Jump escaping from the Land of Giants and going through a wormhole, where they're nearly flattened by a giant earthworm that fills up an entire tunnel. Surprisingly, said earthworm can talk and communicate with the brownies, and when the brownies politely asks if the worm can dig a small alcove they can hide in while it slid past, the worm surprisingly complies.
  • Dune codified and popularized this trope. The beasties here are hundreds of feet long, used as mounts, capable of swallowing entire ships whole, and their offspring crap out the substance that keeps the entire cosmos's economy running. Practically every case of Sandworms in fiction since has been a carbon-copy of these critters, though scaled down to somewhat less incredulous levels. The Dune example is also a bit more realistic than its successors tend to be. It's established that they usually feed on a combination of the plankton-like larval form of themselves, and other, smaller worms, explaining how they can sustain such colossal bodies. Their mass is physically sustained by their semi-crystalline body, and their ability to pass through the sand is because they consume it, as part of getting the aforementioned plankton. The reason they attack anything that vibrates is because, since they are blind and have low intelligence, they attack on the off-chance that the vibration is caused by another worm. Their physical attributes are consistently extrapolated from the neccessities of their living-in-sand nature — their bodies are designed to be capable of passing off enormous amounts of heat to deal with the friction in sand (generating a lot of oxygen in the process, explaining why Arrakis has a breathable atmosphere), and their strength is quite enormous, as it would have to be to move such a mass through such a dense medium.
  • The ColSec Trilogy: In Exiles of Col Sec, these are a recurring threat. They vary from about three feet long to about seven feet in diameter, and are armed with deadly stinging tentacles. They're at least somewhat justified in that they have durable exoskeletons, and that they lurk under a shallow layer of soil and ground cover rather than actually burrowing. In the end, it's helping to kill a particularly large one that serves to somewhat endear the central cast to the native humanoids.
  • The Conqueror Worms: Man-eating giant earthworms begin crawling on the surface after an endless rainstorm forces them out from deep underground.
  • Cthulhu Mythos: Dholes or bholes (it's not quite clear whether they are different creatures or just a different way of spelling) appear in H. P. Lovecraft's mythos. They are enormous wormlike creatures that secrete corrosive acid slime that helps them tunnel through solid rock, and can eventually devastate a planet by eating so much of it that it collapses on itself. Cthonians are another burrowing mythos creature, but they are more squidlike than wormlike, and are very good at causing earthquakes and volcanic eruptions if their ire is roused.
  • Daystar and Shadow has fireworms, monstrous beings with poisonous bristles who can swallow a man whole. They tend to attack people who venture alone into the desert, except for Robin, whom the fireworms protect.
  • Subverted in the third book of John Varley's Gaea Trilogy. Yes, there is a giant sand worm; Gaea herself has created and placed it, no doubt directly inspired by Earth fiction. It's miles long, it's probably hungry (it has turned the original landscape into the desert it is now)...and it moves so slowly that it's basically just a living terrain feature.note  Some of the passing humans cut graffiti into its skin.
  • Giant rust worms appear in Brian Lumley's The House Of Doors, when the trapped humans enter a realm of ruined machines and all-rust deserts, generated from the inborn fears of Gill the machine-empath.
  • Bore grubs inhabit the Clayr's Glacier in Garth Nix's Lirael. Unlike other examples on this page, they're not actually malevolent, but they're pretty stupid, slow to react, and can chew through solid rock and ice with their rotating jaws, so it's best to stay out of their way. The bigger ones are largely responsible for hollowing out the places where the Clayr live.
  • The Guan a Var in Perry Rhodan, basically giant worms that live in hyperspace, feed on the energy of stars, and cause them to go nova to reproduce, got their start like this — the issue detailing their backstory even includes a couple of not-at-all-subtle shout-outs. Probably nothing would ever have happened if some clever aliens hadn't discovered them, realized these animals were sensitive to hyperspace energies, and decided it'd be a great idea to over successive generations engineer them into organic starships...
  • Redshirts has Borgovian Land Worms, which eat two characters.
    • Later it is revealed that not only did the lead writer of the show have nothing to do with these, he was on vacation, but the TV company got in trouble with the Herbert estate as well proving that sand worms are VERY lawyer unfriendly.
  • In the Retief story "Internal Affair", the ambassador sent to the planet Quahogg disappears after reporting being chased by forty-foot giant worms, and Retief and Magnan are sent to investigate. The worms turn out to be the intelligent life forms the ambassador was sent to meet (somehow the CDT overlooked this little fact), and, while the ambassador was eaten, this did no harm—in fact, it turns out that the only safe place for humans on the planet is inside the worms.
  • The Ship Who...: In The City Who Fought, Simeon is attacked by a literal "worm" program, two metres thick with rows of rotating concentric teeth — apparently based on a real creature.
  • According to supplemental material for Star Trek, the planet Vulcan has a second, silicon-based type of these worms known as a'kweth, or "underliers". They're sapient.
    • The Flayers in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Relaunch are carnivorous worm-like creatures which lurk beneath the sand of a certain desert on the planet Harkoum. They're known to eat people; crossing the desert on foot is practically suicide.
  • A Star Wars Expanded Universe example is Greater Krayt Dragons, ridiculously huge ten-legged dragons that mostly ate banthas, but there's an illustration in The Wildlife of Star Wars of one digging up and eating a sarlaac . Usually they stayed buried in the sand.
    • Tatooine also has dune worms, which... are basically exact Expys of sand worms.
  • Summer of Night by Dan Simmons has these in the rural Midwest. They're described as being like Moray eels.
  • Well World: Ghlmon, a desert hex, is home to sandsharks, huge beasts resembling whales that swim through the endless dunes.
  • Diggles in Piers Anthony's Xanth series are giant worms that could phase through solid rock and literally worked for a song.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Andromeda featured an episode with "Squorms," large, genetically engineered mining beasts that looked like fat worms, moved through rock, and excreted aluminum.
  • Earth 2 had the Terrians, humanoids with a complex and very alien psychology who traveled like sandworms through the soil of their (living, symbiotic) homeworld.
  • The Frank Herbert's Dune miniseries.
  • The Sand Rays and Sharks from Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, obviously based on the Graboids from Tremors.
  • Lost Tapes did an episode about Mongolian death worms.
  • In season two of The Mandalorian, we finally see a Greater Krayt Dragon. Sure enough, it mostly stays buried under the sand while its movement causes massive disruptions in the sand above it, almost like a living wave. Judging just by the size of its head and neck, it's enormous, able to swallow elephant-sized Banthas whole. During the climax of the episode the Krayt is able to force its head through the top of the mountain that sits above its den.
  • An episode of The Outer Limits (1963) titled "The Invisible Enemy" has an astronaut team investigating why a previous landing party has vanished and their ship destroyed. They barely escape after being attacked by giant sand sharks.
  • SeaQuest DSV features a giant, fire-breathing worm that lives in underwater caves.
  • During its "movie ripoff" phase, Sliders likewise did an episode featuring one.
  • Tremors: The Series: While El Blanco the sterile albino Graboid appears more often in the background and is the focus of a few episodes, one episode features a normal Graboid as well.
  • Uchu Sentai Kyuranger: Deathworms are voracious, humanoid creatures burrowing underground. They are not sentient or smart at all, but very resilient and always mean trouble.
  • The Ultraman Tiga episode "Land Shark" gives Exactly What It Says on the Tin as the Monster of the Week. However, Geozark turns out to actually be a digging robot constructed by a Corrupt Corporate Executive to tunnel out the tomb of a previously unknown Ultra.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Olgoi-Khorkhoi (Mongolian Death Worm), a legendary beast said to inhabit the Gobi Desert, is a 2-5 foot long worm capable of spitting acid and able to electrocute prey. Fortean Times regularly covering Mongolia to summarise the latest reported sightings and seeks to evaluate the evidence, using cryptozoologists who have made expeditions here as a sort of "roving reporter".
  • Some Classical authors made reference to giant worms called Indus Worms, described as pallid serpentine creatures with monstrous teeth that dwelt along riverbanks in India and attacked passerbys.
  • The Minhocão (Big Worm) from Brazilian Folklore is a creature who swims in both rivers and land alike, devouring fishermen and causing tremors and landslides. Despite its name, it is generally described as a giant serpent, sometimes with fish-like attributes; the name would have come from the holes it leaves in the ground.
  • Northern European and Siberian folklore held that the dead mammoths, whose bones were found in earth, or who sometimes were embedded in the permafrost, were burrowing creatures that died instantly upon contact with air. The word "mammoth" is likely derived from "underground deer" in some Finno-Ugric languages.
  • Medieval Russian folklore had the beast Indrik ("the beast of all beasts"), who cuts underground riverbeds through earth and dies from exposure to light. Depending on the narrator, it could be the same creature as mammoth, or a separate animal.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Arkham Horror, being Cthulhu Mythos The Board Game, has dholes and cthonians as per the literature and RPG examples above. In game terms, dholes are massive and incredibly powerful while cthonians can damage all the investigators by causing earthquakes.
  • Call of Cthulhu has two:
    • Dholes, gigantic underground worms with a penchant for destroying planets by burrowing through them. They are that large. Getting hit by a Dhole requires you to make a Luck roll; a success means there is enough of you left to hold a proper funeral.
    • Chthonians, somewhat smaller underground worms with blood-draining tentacles and telepathy.
  • Chaosium: The All the Worlds' Monsters supplement has Sand Worms that grow 100-200 meters long, live in sandy deserts, are poisoned by water, can hear things miles away, attack creatures on the surface by creating a sand whirlpool beneath them, and can be controlled and used as mounts with a certain item. In other words, they're a fantasy version of Dune sandworms.
  • Deadlands has rattlers. No, not those. Mojave rattlers are named for the noise a cowpoke's teeth make as they race toward him. Before taking one on, re-read that part about "varying intelligence" real careful: rattlers in different parts of the country even have different personalities, implying at least the intelligence of a clever hunting animal. They're smarter than they seem, too. And they don't eat everyone they catch. What do they do with them...?
  • Dungeons & Dragons has lots of these.
    • The iconic Purple Worm, which looks very much like a sandworm from Tremors, including the mouth parts, but lives underground and tunnels through solid rock, leaving tunnels similar to the Horta from "The Devil in the Dark". It hunts by sensing tremors of moving creatures which touch the ground, so flying is advised. And they're purple, covered in slime, and pictures of them have inspired a lot of eye-rolling from gamers. One of the monsters that would go beyond the game's PG-13 rating, if parents didn't pretend they hadn't seen it. In later editions, the artwork has made more the worm more scaly and less suggestive (which is a bit funny because the monster was originally meant to be a kind of serpentine dragon; its inspiration was in fact the Lambton Wyrm of English folklore rather than any of the other worm monsters mentioned on this page).
    • 3.5 Edition has the ashworm, the purple worm's smaller brother, which similarly burrows around under desert sands. There's a prestige class called the Ashworm Dragoon that allows players to act as sandworm-mounted heavy cavalry.
    • Sand burrowers, from the 3rd Edition Creature Collection, track prey through vibrations. They also grab their victims with tentacles that extend from their mouth, making them very similar to the graboids in the film Tremors.
    • On the "Landshark" side, there's the bulette (aka landshark), another classic monsters that resembles an armoured dinosaur of some kind mixed with a shark on legs or a cross between an armadillo and a snapping turtle the size of a small car. Its appellation is earned from the distinctive fin cutting through the soil as it burrows, as well as for it having the appetite and temperament associated with sharks.
    • The desert-dwelling sand dragons spend most of their time buried under the desert sands, slithering beneath the surface when they wish to move, and prefer to ambush prey from beneath when hidden in this manner.
    • The frost worm (based directly off of the yakhmar from the Lair of the Ice Worm) and the Remorhaz (also inspired by the yakhmar, but is a bit more like a giant centipede than a worm and burrows through ice and snow with a body temperature that rivals molten iron), which burrow through glaciers instead.
    • Dragonlance: In module DL12 Dragons of Faith, one possible encounter is with a Dune-style sand worm. Its approach causes an earth tremor and leaves "worm sign" on the surface.
    • Forgotten Realms: Illithid tadpoles that manage to grow up without a host become Neothelids. Basically Sand Worms with Psychic Powers and tentacles growing on their "faces".
    • Dark Sun, set on the desert planet of Athas, has several examples.
      • Silt drakes, red silt horrors and silt spawn all swim through the Silt Sea.
      • The sink worm is Dark Sun's version of the Dune sandworm. It's 50 feet long, leaves a sunken depression in the ground behind it, bursts out of the ground under its prey and swallows it whole, its mouth is lined with teeth, and it can feel the vibrations of creatures walking on the ground.
      • Polyhedron magazine #80: The Sand Worm is a worm-like creature 100-500 feet long that lives underground in sandy desert areas. It is covered with hard plates and detects prey through their vibrations up to a mile away. It has a mouth (filled with rows of sharp teeth) which is large enough to allow victims up to 18 feet high and 12 feet wide to be Swallowed Whole. In short, it's yet another D&D version of the Dune sandworm.
    • Mystara has the Leviathan Worm. The desert version is up to 500 feet long and 40 wide. It's sensitive to vibrations and attacks anything moving on the surface within a quarter mile. When moving underground, it causes a ripple like an ocean wave on the surface above it. It attacks by engulfing an area of sand.
  • Exalted: Ghostfishers are a peculiar variant of this native to the Underworld. For the most part, they're fairly typical examples — giant worms with gaping, fang-lined maws that lurk beneath the ground and prey on people passing above. Their two unusual traits are that they feed almost entirely on ghosts and that they hunt by means of a lure dangling from their forehead; a hunting ghostfisher hides just underground and shapes its lure to resemble a pitiable ghost in some kind of difficulty. When other shades stop by to help, the worm bursts from the ground to attack.
  • GURPS:
    • Supplement Creatures of the Night: The Graveworm is an effectively harmless version of this. They're very easy to kill (literally, they have the "Easy To Kill" disadvantage) and have no real attacks but if people that spend to much time around a living one find their intelligence being drained away.
    • Supplement Space Bestiary'. The alien species known as world worms travel between planets in pods. When a pod lands, the worms pour out and infest the planet, eating their way to the planet's core. By the time they've grown to full size (several miles long), they've done so much damage to the planet that it disintegrates. After mating, the worms split up and release pods, which begin their journey to find a new planet to destroy.
  • Pathfinder, aside from adopting the purple worm, remorhaz, frost worm, thoqqua, bulette, nightcrawler, and neothelid (that last now uncoupled from its connection to illithids, which are a Wizards identity product) from Dungeons & Dragons, adds the death worm (a direct interpretation of the olgoi-khorkhoi) and seugathi (neothelids' servitor spawn) to its lineup of such beasts. There's also the Spawn of Rovagug known as Chemnosit, the Monarch Worm. It's a kaiju-sized Eldritch Abomination sandworm with Disintegrator Ray Eye Beams and the ability to Mind Rape those it stares at into feeling insatiable hunger for the flesh of their own kind, driving them into insane rampages of cannibalism in which they will eat their own flesh if they can't get anyone else's. Chemnosit has been described as actually holding back from devouring cities to first let its Hungry Gaze do its terrible work; only once the city's inhabitants have devastated themselves does it grow bored and consume the few survivors.
  • Rocket Age's Silt Seas of Mars are home to a range of animals, of which the apex predator is the Silt Dragon, a serpent over 150 metres long.
  • Heroes magazine Volume I #3 article "Creepy Critters: Insects for RuneQuest'': Sandswimmers are the worm-like maggots of giant flies and grow up to 10 meters long. They burrow beneath the surface of sandy areas (beaches and deserts). They sense their prey through vibrations and burst through the surface to attack it.
  • Shadowrun: Rockworms are Awakened earthworms about two meters long, with three-lobed jaws, lots of strong, sharp teeth and corrosive saliva. They use these to bore tunnels through solid rock, digging extensive tunnel systems. They don't prey on other animals, but their tunnel systems can and will cause large collapses when they grow too big — and they're just as happy eating the concrete in dams, highway supports and buildings as they are eating rock.
  • Talislanta has the Land Kra, a subterranean eel that may exceed 40' in length and weigh up to five tons.
  • Warhammer: Dread maws are immense, blind, scaly serpents native to the Chaos Wastes, which burrow their way beneath the ground before erupting on the surface to attack prey. Smaller creatures are devoured as is, but in the case of larger beasts a dread maw will simply burrow directly into its target and eat it alive.
  • Warhammer 40,000 has had several incarnations of these with the Tyranids since third edition.
    • "The Red Terror" was a relative of the Ravener species (snake or worm-like Tyranids) that had the ability to burrow its way onto the battlefield and swallow smaller enemies whole. The Red Terror was later removed from the playable creatures: the Raveners got its burrowing abilities.
    • The Trygon is a giant version of the Ravener with all its burrowing abilities and an electrical attack. Since Raveners were much too small for a proper Sand Worm, the Imperial Armour books introduced their giant form (their being able to move is Hand Waved as their electrical field breaking the ground into fine particles, which are easier to move around).
    • January 2010 had Games Workshop feature a new sub-strain of the Trygon called the Mawloc. It is the most Sandworm-like creature in the game so far, having shorter arms and a multi-jawed mouth. On top of everything the Mawloc is not only able to burrow underground, but move around while underground and reappear elsewhere later (apparently it's faster while underground than on the surface).
    • Given how it attacks, most players have come to the conclusion that the Mawloc is what you get when you mix the genes from the Trygon and the Red Terror. Essentially it's the product of two sand worms into one.
  • Werewolf: The Apocalypse has the Thunderwyrms, gigantic beasts that travel under the earth and are drawn above the surface by storms (hence the name). It's believed they were born of irradiated soil, a belief backed up by the fact that the largest Thunderwyrm (big enough to host a Caern inside it) nests under the soil of the Trinity test site.

    Web Animation 
  • DSBT InsaniT: Sand Snake meets the qualifications for one better than a snake.
  • RWBY: The Blind Worm is an enormous Grimm, as wide as a Nevermore's full wingspan and as long as six Goliaths, and is a threat that comes from below the sand. When traveling towards its intended prey, its movements through the sand throw up dust like a sandstorm and it will leap through this dusty air and back into the sand like a dolphin cresting ocean waves. It then completes the attack approach from underneath the sand. Despite its name, it has a single, burning red eye in the centre of its head.

    Web Comics 
  • In Demon Eater some demons are seen to grow into this shape.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Aladdin: The Series:
    • In one episode, Agrabah was assaulted by a vicious and legendary sandworm that was drawn by rancid-smelling foods (in this case, the smelly yak cheese they had received from Odiferous).
    • Two more episode featured or alluded to what was essentially a landshark-varient being hunted by an Captain Ahab Captain Ersatz.
  • Amphibia: The desert is home to giant worms that attack passing travelers.
  • Sandworms weren't just in the live action Beetlejuice. They were also a fairly constant theme in the animated series as well, and Beetlejuice was pretty darned terrified of them.
  • Ben 10 ran afoul of several of these while trapped on an alien planet.
  • Bounty Hamster. A white sandworm is pursued by mad Captain Rehab in a spoof of Moby-Dick.
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog had one episode dealing with a sand whale attacking the house, trying to get back his accordion from Eustace (who he thought was his father, who actually did steal the accordion). At the very end of the episode when he does get it back, it's revealed that he's part of an entire orchestra of sand whales.
  • Dragons: Riders of Berk: "Sandbusted": Hiccup and the Riders run into a sand swimming dragon known as the Sandbuster, a dragon who lives under a sandy beach and pulls people who enter its territory down into its cave.
  • In an episode of The Fairly OddParents!, Cosmo poofs up a sand worm during Septemberfest.
  • In The Flight of Dragons, the band encounters a giant worm swimming in some kind of slime in Ommadon's kingdom. They are able to defeat it by having Danielle shoot a flaming arrow into its mouth, causing its head, then body, to explode. The slime is sulfuric acid that the worm oozes from its skin as a defensive mechanism. Fortunately for the heroes, it is also highly flammable.
  • Futurama:
    • Al Gore claims to have "ridden the mighty moon worm", though it's not seen until much later we on-screen; its habitat seems to be more jungle than sand.
    • A sandworm also appears on Mars in Into the Wild Green Yonder. The locals use it for transport.
  • Toonami: Unlike the first two Intruders, which features a blob monster, the third one's title characters were these. Additionally, they were trying help get TOM and SARA off the planet because it was dying and help them in exchange for the two taking the youngest and last one of their number with them.
  • The Legend of Korra has an episode where Korra and Asami encounter a gigantic land shark in the middle of the Earth Kingdom's desert. It's made more terrifying by the fact that it has the jaws of a fish called a "Sarcastic Fringehead".
  • The suckoids from Major Lazer are a variation. In a shoutout to the trope maker, they attack anything above ground that dances/moves with rhythm.
  • In an episode of The Mummy: The Animated Series, Imhotep sends a sand worm after the heroes.
  • The episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic "Three's a Crowd" has the Tatzlwurm, a giant earthworm with Tremors-style tentacle tongues that attacks Twilight and Cadance after they pick the giant flower it was under. Bizarrely enough, the Tatzelwurm from Alpine folklore on which this creature was based is actually a feline creature with only two forelegs and a long, reptilian tail.
  • The Pirates of Dark Water:
    • The series has one of these; though it is referred to several times in dialog as a "crustacean", it has a long, serpentine body and other characteristics that fits this trope.
    • A recurring character is Bloth's sandworm-like pet, the Constrictus, which looks like an homage to Tremors but is more realistically depicted as dwelling in and moving though water and sewage rather than sand or soil (it lives in the bowels of Bloth's huge ship). It is a large, mindless, constantly hungry beast with a worm-like body, tentacles and sharp teeth.
  • In Randy Cunningham: Ninth Grade Ninja: Randy used the Ninja Earth Attack during a rap battle and ended up creating a giant Sand Worm with high levels of regeneration.
  • Spongebob Squarepants had the Alaskan Bull Worm, which went around eating half the town, prompting Sandy and SpongeBob to go hunt for it. At one point, Sandy even claims to have found "wormsign", which is a small wooden sign with "WORM" written on it. "It's BIG, SCARY, and PINK!"
  • Star Wars Rebels: "The Lost Commanders" has the joopa, which are roughly the size of an AT-TE and with the pulling power to match. The retired clonetroopers hunt them for food, which involves using Zeb as live bait (which he's only told shortly before he's Swallowed Whole).
  • Terra's introductory episode in the second season of Teen Titans (2003). Granted, they're mechanical, but they still count.
  • What's New, Scooby-Doo? had an episode where the gang encountered a (fake, natch) sand worm while on a cross-country race in Mexico.

    Real Life 
  • Quite a few desert snakes or legless lizards behave a lot like sand worms, avoiding the sun's direct rays by sliding along just under the surface of loose sand. Few are more than a couple of feet long, however.
  • The desert sandfish lizard is able to dive straight into loose sand and literally swim through it, folding its limbs to its sides and propelling itself with side-to-side movements of its body.
  • The seaside-dwelling lugworms are commonly referred to as "sandworms" in various languages. The sea annelid Allita virens is also known under the same name, but that's about as far as the connection goes...
  • The Eunice aphroditois, also known as "Bobbit Worms" or "Sand Strikers", dwell at the ocean bed and prey on unsuspecting fish swimming past them. They don't have eyes or a brain, and only react when their antenna is triggered or when a shadow lingers above them. But these worms are fully capable of eating fish that are formidable predators in their own rights. They are also the real-life inspiration for Mass Effect's thresher maws.
  • Giant species of earthworms able to reach lengths of ten feet can be found in places like Australia and Africa. They're the same as normal-sized earthworms, except they do everything on a bigger scale. Some people claim you can feel the worms moving when they tunnel beneath you!

Alternative Title(s): Shai Hulud



Billy uses Wormquake, a large, wormlike burrowing Bakugan against Julie.

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