10 Surprising Animal Partnerships

Relationships between species often defy conventional expectations. While the animal kingdom teems with tales of predation and survival, it also holds stories of unexpected alliances, where species collaborate, cohabit, and even care for one another in surprising ways. These inter-species partnerships offer a captivating glimpse into the complexity and adaptability of life on Earth, challenging our understanding of the traditional roles animals play in the wild. From the tiniest insects to the giants of the savannah, join us as we delve into 10 astonishing tales of animals forming bonds that blur the lines between friend and foe

Water buffalo and cattle egrets

Water buffalo and cattle egret
Francesco Veronesi / Flickr

Cattle egrets live on insects that congregate on the water buffalo’s backs. They also pick off harmful fleas and ticks from their hosts and alert them of danger. The water buffalo provide food and protection for the egrets.

Carrion beetles and mites

Carrion beetles and mites
kebman / Flickr

Carrion beetles eat dead animals and lay their eggs there. Mites hitch a ride on the beetles’ backs and eat the eggs and larvae of other insects that would compete with the beetles’ offspring. The beetles benefit from having less competition and the mites benefit from having food and transportation.

Ostriches and zebras

Ostriches and zebras
Jorge Láscar / Flickr

Ostriches and zebras are both prey for faster animals, so they work together to stay alert. Zebras can see really well, but they don’t have a great sense of smell, and ostriches are the opposite. They rely on each other’s senses to detect predators.

READ MORE: Animals with the Most Bizarre, Sadistic Killing Methods

Colombian lesserblack tarantulas and humming frogs

These two species have been found living in the same burrows. The frogs use the spiders for protection and food, while the spiders benefit from the frogs eating ants and other insects that might harm their eggs.

Aphids and ants

ant feeding on aphid
Jmalik at English Wikipedia via Wikimedia Commons

Ants feed on the honeydew (a sugary liquid) that aphids secrete. Ants ‘milk’ the aphids with their antennae and may offer them protection from predators or move them to better feeding sites. The aphids provide food for the ants and the ants provide defense and transportation for the aphids.

Pistol shrimp and gobies

Pistol shrimps and gobies
Silke Baron / Flickr

Pistol shrimp dig burrows in the sandy seafloor that they share with gobies, a family of small fish. The shrimp maintain physical contact with the gobies by resting their antennae on them. The gobies act as lookouts for predators and signal to the shrimp when to hide. The shrimp provide shelter for the gobies and the gobies provide security for the shrimps.

READ MORE: Nature’s Oddballs: A Glimpse Into the World’s Strangest Looking Creatures

Clownfish and sea anemones

Silke Baron / Flickr

Clownfish coexist harmoniously with sea anemones, taking refuge amidst their venomous tendrils. A protective layer of mucus shields the clownfish from the harmful stings of these anemones. Clownfish defend the anemones from fish that can eat them, such as butterflyfish, and also provide nutrients from their waste. The anemones provide protection and habitat for the clownfish.

Cleaner wrasses and reef fish

Cleaner wrasses and reef fish
Klaus Stiefel / Flickr

Cleaner wrasses are small fish that eat parasites, dead skin and mucus from larger reef fish. They set up ‘cleaning stations’ where they advertise their services by performing a dance-like motion. The reef fishes benefit from having a cleaner body and reduced stress, while the cleaner wrasses benefit from having a steady food source.

Acacia trees and ants

Acacia ants
Ryan Somma via Wikimedia Commons

Some species of acacia trees have hollow thorns that serve as nests for certain ants. The trees also produce nectar and protein-rich structures called Beltian bodies that feed the ants. The ants protect the trees from herbivores by biting, stinging, or spraying them with formic acid. They also prune away any competing plants around the trees. The trees offer the ants sustenance and refuge, while in return, the ants guard the trees and tend to their growth.

Crocodiles and plovers

Crocodiles have a problem with leeches that attach to their gums and cause infections. Plovers are small birds that eat insects and other small animals. Sometimes, crocodiles will open their mouths wide and allow plovers to enter and pick out the leeches. The crocodiles benefit from having a cleaner mouth and the plovers benefit from having a meal.

Written by Pete

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