Oxpeckers and their symbiotic relationships | SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM
Several species have teamed-up to form symbiotic relationships that help both species African rhinos and African oxpeckers share a symbiotic relationship. Oxpeckers have a symbiotic relationship with oxen, antelopes, zebras, hippos, rhinos, giraffes, and many ungulates (hoofed-animals) in Africa. The oxpeckers are two species of bird which make up the family Buphagidae. The oxpeckers mammals was previously thought to be an example of mutualism, though recent research suggests the relationship is parasitic in nature . Elephants and some antelope will actively dislodge the oxpeckers when they land.
I remained with the control group, which oxpeckers continued to visit and feed on as normal.
The Jungle Store: The Symbiotic Relationship Of The Oxpecker & Its Host
The two groups fed in two separate grazing areas, which I alternated every 2 days. They spent the night in separate cattle kraals, which I alternated every week. Controlling for grazing areas was particularly important because the ranch has large populations of other potential tick hosts, notably impala Aepyceros melampuseland Taurotragus oryxkudu Tragelaphus strepsicerosand warthog Phacochoerus aethipicus.
The density of ticks may therefore have varied from area to area. It is also important to note that the developmental period needed for engorged nymphal ticks to change into adult ticks is close to 2 months for brown ear ticks see, e. This does not take into account the additional time required for the adult's cuticle to harden, the tick to start searching for a new host, and the delay while it finds a host. There was thus no danger of the results being confounded by cross-contamination between control and experimental herds.
For the second treatment 17 January FebruaryI switched the groups so that the experimentals became controls and vice versa. For the third treatment 19 August SeptemberI arbitrarily selected a different combination of oxen to fill the control and experimental groups. Although there were originally 22 oxen, 3 animals died during the year, so the sample size varies slightly between experiments.
Symbiotic Holiday Symbols
For each animal, I counted all the adult ticks, identifying them to species level, and, for the bont ticks Ambylomma hebraeumto sex. I also assigned an earwax score based on a visual assessment of the inner portion of the right ear using the following scale: I repeated full tick counts, wound scores, and earwax measures on all animals every week. I only scored adult ticks, as there is no valid technique for counting larval ticks on a live animal Mooring and McKenzie,and it is difficult and time consuming to look for nymphal ticks.
Adults are also accurate gauges of the overall tick load of an animal Mooring and McKenzie, With all the tick analyses, therefore, I analyzed not only the overall changes in totals, but also the changes in species' totals. I compared the median monthly change in tick loads between experimental and control oxen for each treatment and corrected for this multiple comparison with a sequential Bonferroni correction Sokal and Rohlf, Because the data are not normally distributed, all my tests are nonparametric Siegel and Castellan, All statistical tests are two-tailed with the significance level set at 0.
What Is the Relationship Between an Oxpecker & a Bison?
Absence of oxpeckers also had little effect on infestation changes at the level of species and sex. Blue ticks did not appear in any of the three replicates, and brown ear ticks, a seasonal species, only appeared in the second. Of these 16 remaining results, only 1 showed a significantly greater increase on experimental oxen Figure 2.
No other comparison was significant sequential Bonferroni correction: Total tick loads were low and never exceeded a mean of 30 ticks per animal in any of the treatments. Wounds and earwax I analyzed the wound scores in two ways.
First, I compared the accumulation score of new wounds between the control and experimental groups so an individual wound that appeared at any subsequent weekly check only counted as one wound for this analysis. Control cattle exposed to oxpeckers had significantly more wounds than experimental cattle in all treatments Figure 3. In each case, control oxen had significantly more wounds than experimental ones Mann-Whitney test throughout.
I also looked at what happened to individual wounds during the course of the experiment. Some completely healed and were not scored again. Others were still present the following week persisted or were seen again at least once in some other week recurred.
In two out of the three experiments, wounds on control oxen were significantly more likely to persist or recur during the course of the treatments than wounds on experimental cattle Table 1. The nonsignificant result from the first treatment was probably due to the low number of initial wounds on the experimental herd.
Table 1 Summary of the different wounds on control and experimental cows during the three treatments. Cape Buffalo Benefits A bison -- in Africa this ox-like creature is known as the Cape buffalo -- that is serving as host to the oxpecker does receive some benefits, although the overall merit is speculative. Ticks and other insects feasting on the buffalo are removed by the oxpecker. Oxpeckers leave no crevice untouched, and will even work their ways into their hosts ears to remove insects, earwax and parasites.
In addition, the oxpecker will eat diseased wound tissue, keeping wounds clean as they heal. Oxpeckers also will hiss when they become alarmed, and can alert their host --who is a prey mammal-- to potential danger. Oxpecker Benefits The oxpecker will spend his entire life on his hosts, except for nesting, which occurs in cavities of trees. In this relationship, the part of the oxpecker is obligate; he is dependent upon the host as a source of food.
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.