Oxpecker bird and hippopotamus symbiotic relationship

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oxpecker bird and hippopotamus symbiotic relationship

The first set of symbiotic wonders focused mainly on underwater matches (such as elephants and hippos shown above) to potential aggressors. Oxpeckers aren't the only birds that zebras have been known to pair with. Hippo & Oxpecker The hippo and the oxpecker have a mutual relationship. The oxpecker lives on the hippo and eats all the parasites living on the hippo. Oxpeckers have a symbiotic relationship with many mammals on the African continent and beyond, including rhinoceroses, hippopotamuses.

oxpecker bird and hippopotamus symbiotic relationship

During the day, the hippos of Mzima Springs get a true spa treatment. Groups of fish, at least four different species, attend these spas, specializing on cleaning particular parts of the hippopotamus.

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A carp of the genus Labeo meaning lips cleans the large flat surfaces of the hippopotamus. A species of cichlid cleans the bristly hair on the tail, removing unwanted material, while barbles clean the cracks in the soles of the feet. A close relative of the Garra in the Mzima Springs, Garra rufa, aka the doctor fish, are used in spas in Asia and Europe to remove dead skin of people that suffer from psoriasis.

Carps clean the backside of hippopotamus, removing algae and parasites.

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Hippopotamus are far from passive recipients in this system. They deliberately splay their toes and spread their legs to entice fish. They open their mouth and allow fish to swim in to clean their jaws and tongues.

oxpecker bird and hippopotamus symbiotic relationship

The fishes congregate in cleaning stations and the hippos seek out these stations, much like how we visit spas to get a pampered treatment. This relationship is facultative; both the fishes and the hippopotamus can survive without the other. For example, the carp that feed on the algae and parasites on the back of the hippos also graze on aufwuchs algae and invertebrates encrusting rocks and other hard substrata. Symbiosis Among the several forms of symbiosis is mutualism, in which two or more organisms live or function together to benefit each other.

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One aspect of mutualism is the extent of involvement -- one partner may be completely dependent on the relationship obligatewhile the other benefits from the relationship but can survive without it facultative. Adding the word "cleaning" to mutualism indicates that one partner removes external parasites from the other. Kifaru The rhino "kifaru" in Swahili grazes on the African savanna and shelters in dense thickets of thorny brush. Ticks lurk in both spots, waiting to fling themselves onto a host.

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Kifaru's skin is thick, but very sensitive and well supplied with blood just under the surface, so it bleeds easily. Ticks and other skin parasites make Kifaru itch horribly, so he spends a lot of time and energy scratching himself on rocks and trees, trying to get rid of them.

This is where the oxpecker, or tickbird, can be a big help. 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.

oxpecker bird and hippopotamus symbiotic relationship

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.