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5 Unlikely animal friends


Photo by Klaus Stiefel licensed CC BY-NC 2.0

Here’s a round-up of different species of plants and animals that not only get along, but have grown to depend on each other. In science, this is known as mutualism.

The egret and sambar deer


The hungry egret gets a free ride on the back of the sambar deer and snacks on insects found in the deer’s coat. The deer, on the other hand, enjoys a grooming and is rid of those pesky bugs.

The goby fish and shrimp


While the shrimp provides a home for the Goby fish, the Goby fish provides a guidance service for the almost blind shrimp. You see, the goby has excellent eyesight and stays close to the shrimp. As the shrimp goes about its daily duties of digging out its home, the shrimp is constantly feeling the goby with its antenna to make sure it’s still there. If the Goby senses danger, she will return to the home and the shrimp will follow.

The sea anemone and hermit crab


One way to defend yourself from a hungry octopus is to wear a sea anemone - just like the hermit crab! Sea anemones have stings in their tentacles that are powerful enough to scare off small octopuses. But it’s no easy feat to remove a sea anemone from a rock. The hermit crab must tickle it! Once it’s released, the hermit crab places it onto its shell. So what does the sea anemone get out of it? It’s able to catch tasty leftover food particles from the crab.

Ants and acacia trees


The acacia tree has an incredible partnership with the acacia ants. In exchange for protection, the acacia tree rewards the ants with food in the form of sweet nectar and shelter. Nothing will get in between the ant and the acacia tree—nothing! They launch attacks on other invasive insects, animals, and even take on other plants by biting off creeping vines that try to steal the acacia’s sunlight!

Langor monkeys and deer


While the langor monkey feasts in the tree, it drops leaves and berries to the ground. This is a bonus for the spotted deer because at certain times of year, food is scarce. The deer will follow the monkeys and eat whatever food is dropped. And in return, when the monkeys come down from the trees, the deer stamp their hooves to alert the monkeys if they sense danger.