Oxpeckers and Rhinoceros - Syn Biosis
Oct 15, Parasitism- a non-mutual relationship between organisms where one organism, the parasite, benefits at the expense of the other, the host. Nature shows set in Africa often show rhinos and other large mammals with small This relationship was long held up as a textbook example of mutualism. African rhinos and African oxpeckers share a symbiotic relationship that was once confidently described as mutualistic, but recent research indicates that the.
They eat tough plant matter but are not able to digest the cellulose their food contains.
Symbiotic Relationships for Rhinos | Sciencing
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.
The adults, which are the largest flies in Africa, lay their eggs on the skin of rhinos, and the larvae burrow into the rhino's stomach, where they attach and live through larval stages called "instars.
Then they have only a few days to find another rhinoceros host. This symbiotic relationship has no benefit to the rhino hosts, while the flies are "obligate parasites," which means they're dependent on the rhinos — they can't complete their life cycle without them. A Highly Visible Example of Symbiosis Oxpecker birds Buphagus erythrorhynchusalso called tickbirds, specialize in riding on large African animals, including rhinos and zebras, feeding on external parasites like the bot-fly larvae and ticks.
The International Rhino Foundation describes how mynah birds serve the same role on rhinos in India. 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. Kifaru's skin is thick, but very sensitive and well supplied with blood just under the surface, so it bleeds easily.
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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.
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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.
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.