What are the benefits of snake plants

Ecology: how snakes help plants

Rodents eat plant seeds, snakes eat rodents - that's the way of things. But with their hunger for rats, mice and the like, the reptiles not only help the plants by keeping annoying pests at bay: the reptiles also ensure that the plants can reproduce and spread. This is shown by Harry Greene from Cornell University and his colleagues in a study in the "Proceedings of the Royal Society B". The snakes are therefore secondary seed dispersers, similar to birds or mammals, which carry seeds in the plumage or fur. For their study, the biologists examined 50 rattlesnakes of three species that hunt small mammals and were stored in museums. Many of these rodents ingest the reproductive products of plants in their cheek pouches and carry them into their burrows or in hiding places, where they eat a large proportion of them themselves. However, they are often the victims of predators on the way.

Greene and Co discovered rodent remains in 45 of the specimens examined, which in turn had more than 970 seeds in their digestive tract. Most of them had survived the stay in the intestines without damage, and some were even germinating, although the intestinal passage was not yet completed. This shows that many of the 3,500 species of snakes worldwide can play a not insignificant role in the spread of plants, say the researchers. This has great advantages for the vegetation, because a wide distribution of the seeds increases the survival rate of the seedlings and reduces the risk of disease for the entire stand.