SENDAI, Japan, July 11 (UPI) -- Some snails can survive being eaten by birds and are found alive in the birds' droppings, Japanese researchers say.
Researchers at Tohoku University found about 15 percent of tiny land snails eaten by Japanese white-eye or mejiro birds survived digestion, suggesting bird predations may be a factor in the population spread of the snails, the BBC reported Monday.
While it has long been known that birds that eat fruit can spread a plant's seeds through their droppings, the study points to some invertebrates being spread the same way.
In a lab experiment, scientists fed snails to the birds to see if any survived the digestive process.
"We were surprised that a high rate, about 15 percent, of snails were still alive after passing through the gut of [the] birds," researcher Shinichiro Wada said.
"This is the first study showing that birds can indeed transport a substantial [number of] micro land snails in their gut alive."
The snails' small size, less than a 10th of an inch, may be a factor in their survival, researchers said, as the micro snails fared much better than larger species whose shells were severely damaged when eaten by birds.