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.