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Everglades birds may use gator muscle for nest protection


Cara J

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Water birds in the Everglades may be sacrificing the safety of some of their chicks to alligators for the greater good of gaining protection from raccoons or opossums. “They’re both acting selfishly and it just happens to work out for both of them,” said Lucas Nell of the birds and alligators. Nell conducted the research for the study published recently in PLOS ONE as part of master’s work at the University of Florida. Previous studies had shown that birds species like great egrets (Ardea alba), little blue herons (Egretta caerulea), snowy egrets (Egretta thula), white ibis (Eudocimus albus), wood storks (Mycteria americana), and tricolored herons (Egretta tricolor) actually choose to nest in willow trees near American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) when given the choice. The reason why is complex. The gators send a strong signal of unsafe habitats that animals like raccoons (Procyon lotor) or opossums shy away from. Since these animals are common nest predators, the birds may gain a net benefit if the alligators keep the raccoons and opossums away. Alligators may eat the odd bird that falls from the nest, but the sacrifice may not be a huge problem for the birds. That’s because several water bird species [...]

 

Read more: http://wildlife.org/everglades-birds-may-use-gator-muscle-for-nest-protection/

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