Lifestyle & Belief

Wing and a prayer: snails found alive in bird droppings


A snail sits on a plant.


Dan Kitwood

Japanese scientists have found that 15 percent of snails eaten by white-eye birds on the island of Hahajima survive digestion.

The mighty mollusks were found alive and well in the birds' droppings – and the scientists reckon that this feat of nature is helping the snail populations to spread.

The findings were published in the Journal of Biogeography, and complement previous studies that showed larger snails had a tougher time making it out the other end alive.

Researcher Shinichiro Wada told BBC Nature:

This is the first study showing that birds can indeed transport a substantial number of micro land snails in their gut alive.

During the study, lab researchers at Tohoku University fed the birds with tiny tornatellides boeningi snails.

In addition to the surprise 15 percent survival rate, Wada told the BBC that a pregnant snail who'd been fed to one of the bird gave birth to several “juveniles” just after passing through the gut.

Previous research has revealed that pond snails could survive being eaten by fish, but this discovery is a first for land snails.

While it is believed the snails survived their ordeal thanks their diminutive size, Wada says more research is needed to determine whether they possess other “adaptations” that made them digestion proof.