Symbiotic Relationships In The Wild | Species That Benefit Each Other |
The oxpecker/zebra love affair is a perfect example of this working relationship. 572233.info In these areas, the zebras are plagued by black flies, ticks, and midges. One example of a mutualistic relationship is that of the oxpecker (a kind of bird) and the rhinoceros or zebra. Oxpeckers land on rhinos or zebras and eat ticks.
Redbilled oxpeckers only occur where there are animal hosts for the species of insects — mostly ticks — that the birds eat. The hosting animals are generally antelope like impala or kudu, or larger mammals such as zebra, giraffe, buffalo and rhino.
In farmland areas, the hosts can also be domestic stock such as cattle. Elephants and a few species of small antelope will not tolerate the birds at all. The redbilled oxpecker is a starling sized-bird. Although it is a fairly plain olive-brown with creamy under-parts, the bird is very easy to identify. Adults have totally red beaks and distinctive yellow rings around their bright red eyes. They have strong legs and long, particularly sharp claws which enable them to cling onto the sides and backs of their hosts at precarious angles.
They also have short, stiff tails which are used as props. Aside from the colour, it is in the shape and action of their beaks that one sees the biggest differences between the two oxpecker species. The yellow billed oxpecker uses its stout beak to pluck parasites off its hosts. The red billed cousin uses its slimmer, flatter beak in a scissor-like motion to remove its meals. This same sharp beak is also used to peck at any sores or scabs on the host.
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The oxpeckers diet consists mainly of ticks, but also includes other parasites such as blood-sucking flies, fleas and lice. This delays the healing of injuries and attracts more parasites to the area — opening a debate on whether or not the oxpecker is being more of a hindrance than a help, and if it is in itself a type of parasite.
Oxpeckers are monogamous unless a mate dies, at which time the bird will take another mate. In the Sabi Sabi area the birds breed in the summer, with courtship and copulation taking place on the backs on the animal hosts. In a group there will be only one breeding pair, with the other birds helping to feed the chicks after hatching.
In addition to the meals he receives every day, the oxpecker also is protected from many predators while on the relative safety of the host. Oxpeckers consume dandruff and scar tissue, and have been known to open up wounds on their host to eat the blood and scabs, potentially slowing the healing process.
Mutualism There are various types of symbiotic relationships. Mutualism is a symbiotic relationship that benefits both organisms. In the case of the relationship between the oxpecker and his bison-like hosts, the oxpecker benefits from having a steady supply of food, while the host benefits from having parasites cleaned from her body.
Some scientists debate if the relationship truly is mutual however, as the host does not benefit in the same way, if at all, as the oxpecker. Animals, such as the elephant and topi, actively brush away oxpeckers, signalling that there may be little benefit to their relationship.
Oxpecker - Wikipedia
Semi-Parasitic The red-billed oxpecker in particular is suspect of being semi-parasitic. The reduction in tick-load of the host animals for the oxpeckers has not been overwhelming. The oxpecker is inclined to eat ticks that already have fed on the host and, therefore, are full of blood; this fails to help the host.