A land snail (Image Credit:Jurgen Schoner) recently survived being eaten by birds, including the Japanese white-eye, seen below. Credit: Trisha Shears


Imagine if you ate an animal and then later saw it smiling back at you, unscathed, from the toilet bowl.

Something similar happens to birds that eat snails, since new research shows the snails can survive passage through the bird’s digestive tract.

One completely unscathed snail even gave birth to juveniles after plopping out from the journey in bird waste.

The study, published in the latest issue of the Journal of Biogeography, demonstrates how predation in some cases isn’t all bad for the prey. It’s long been known that many seeds consumed by birds survive digestion and get a good start at growth after being spread on the ground in bird waste. Since the seed is surrounded by fertilizer, the process is akin to nature’s farming.

Now this latest research shows how at least some mollusks benefit from a similar series of events.

For the study, led by researcher Shinichiro Wada of Tohoku University, over 174 land snails (Tornatellides boeningi) were fed to two bird species that have a taste for escargot: the Japanese white-eye (Zosterops japonicus) and the brown-eared bulbul (Hypsipetes amaurotis).

“14.3 percent and 16.4 percent of the snails, respectively, passed through the gut alive,” the researchers wrote, adding that one snail also gave birth after what must have been quite a weird trip.

This snail species (you can see a picture of one individual here) is prevalent in the Ogasawara Islands, south of Tokyo, where the birds also live.

The scientists conclude "that land snails could potentially be dispersed through bird predation."

I wonder if this snail, consumed live and with shell on, could survive a journey through the human digestive tract? If so, here’s the journey it would take: