biosystems: Mutualistic Symbiosis:
Two species of oxpecker originate in Africa: red-billed and yellow-billed oxpeckers. The rhinoceros and the oxpecker have a mutual symbiotic relationship. Some of these relationships benefit both the rhino and its symbiotic partner Oxpecker birds (Buphagus erythrorhynchus), also called tickbirds. 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.
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.
Rhinos & the Oxpecker Bird
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. Semi-Parasitic The red-billed oxpecker in particular is suspect of being semi-parasitic.
The rhinoceros enjoys relief from the insects, while the birds enjoy a meal, but the relationships are not always so clear-cut.
Oxpeckers and Rhinoceros - Syn Biosis
Mutualistic Relationships in a Rhino's Gut Rhinoceroses are ungulates: They eat tough plant matter but are not able to digest the cellulose their food contains. They rely on microflora that are able to digest this material, releasing nutrients like fatty acids that the host animal can absorb and use for energy — an example of mutualism.
The hosts don't ruminate like cattle; the microflora work in the host's hindgut. Studies of white rhino dung show bacteria of the phyla Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes dominating the microflora living in the rhino gut, along with many other unclassified bacteria.
A Symbiotic, but Parasitic, Relationship in a Rhino's Gut The rhinoceros bot fly Gyrostigma rhinocerontis lives exclusively in the digestive tracts of both white and black rhinoceroses. Kifaru is also very shortsighted and has a hard time seeing enemies if they approach, but the oxpecker on Kifaru's back can, and provides some warning by hissing and screaming.
Because the rhino can survive without the tickbird, Kifaru is a facultative partner in this mutualistic relationship.
Symbiotic Relationships for Rhinos | Sciencing
Askari wa Kifaru The little oxpecker "askari wa kifaru" or "the rhino's guard" in Swahili "cleans" the rhino by plucking ticks from Kifaru's skin, but does so selectively; he prefers big, fat ticks that are already engorged with blood, ignoring the little ones that irritate Kifaru just as badly.
The oxpecker also searches any wounds or sores Kifaru may have and removes botfly larvae and other parasites, but in the process he also removes scabs and tissue, causing fresh bleeding.
In fact, the oxpecker gets his blood meals as much directly from Kifaru himself as from the parasites he removes. This makes the tickbird the obligate partner, almost a parasite himself. He needs Kifaru with his parasite burden as a primary, if not a sole, food source. A Better Partner The oxpecker is not the only partner Kifaru has in mutualism.