Well-Meaning Gentlemen With Different Ideas: Rhino and Tickbird in Dead-End Relationship
POLOKWANE, SOUTH AFRICA—After three rainy seasons together, a black rhinoceros and a parasite-eating tickbird are beginning to suspect. The adorable oxpecker, perched on the back of a rhinoceros or zebra, However, the relationship isn't one of total simplicity: though they rid. the tickbird continued. The rhino and tickbird pass another morning on the African savannah not saying one word to each other. - The Onion.
The rhinoceros enjoys relief from the insects, while the birds enjoy a meal, but the relationships are not always so clear-cut. 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.
Symbiotic Relationships for Rhinos | Sciencing
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.
On the surface, both animals benefit from this relationship. The oxpecker enjoys a guaranteed source of food, while the host mammal is rid of parasites. According to Wikipediathis is a symbiotic relationship!
We trust Wikipedia, right? However, it is not clear if the oxpeckers even reduce tick loads.
More after the jump. Some studies have been done on this issue, with varying results.
Rhinos & the Oxpecker Bird | Animals - zolyblog.info
The birds significantly reduced tick loads over a period of 7 days. Weeks observed two groups of oxen, one of which did not have contact with oxpeckers.
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It was found that preventing oxpeckers from foraging on oxen did not change tick loads. Studies also found that the oxpeckers can cause adverse effects on the host mammals.
Rhinos & the Oxpecker Bird
Weeks found that the group of oxen with oxpeckers had more wounds and larger wounds, as compared to those which did not. Also, a higher proportion of wounds were persistent or recurring in the former group.
The rhinos were intolerant of the presence of oxpeckers at their wounds, but were usually not successful at chasing the oxpeckers away.