For a very long time, the birds of Everglades named egrets have relied on alligators for protecting their nests. Since no such deal comes without a price, researchers have set to determining the advantages of the reptiles.
While this kind of favor for favor behavior has been previously observed in the wild, the case of the Everglades pairs what seems to be a predator with its prey. Egrets tend to build their nest right above the waters where alligators swim.
A new study has been conducted in order to determine the benefits of the reptiles. Its results, published in the PLOS ONE journal last Wednesday, have shown that alligators simply wait for lunch to fall from the trees, which consists of the chicks of egrets unlucky enough to fall into the water.
Lucas Nell, lead author of the study from the Florida University, has stated that this is the first research that demonstrates the mutually beneficial relationship. While the egrets avoid other predators, they also have to make regular sacrifices for their protectors.
The team of researchers studied the lifestyle of alligators that live under the nests of all kinds of birds, including ibises, spoonbills, storks, herons and egrets. These birds can avoid raccoons and possums while raising their chicks. However, when a bird lays more eggs than it can handle, some of the chicks fall into the gaping jaws of the reptiles.
Dr. Nell and the rest of the team set to compare the conditions of the bodies of forty alligators that lived both near the nests of birds. In this respect, they took some blood samples, but also measured the mass and the length of the reptiles.
The results showed that alligators that chose to live near the nesting grounds of the Everglades birds had a higher body condition, being larger and stronger. Those who did not live underneath the nests were ranked the 17th percentile while the others the 63rd percentile.
According to Dr. Nell,
“Crocodilians and nesting birds co-occur throughout the tropics, so these may be globally important ecological associations.”
It appears that the same deal exists in numerous different climate regions, such as subtropical and tropical wetlands. Its consequences are sure to have an important impact upon ecosystems on a global scale.
Image Source: AARP
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