The southern yellow-billed hornbill and the dwarf mongoose share a relationship that no one understands fully, and in some ways, it’s more interesting that way, it keeps us guessing.
Some cold, wet mornings, you’ll find the hornbill, sitting atop the termite mound that the mongoose have taken refuge in over night, waiting for it’s band of companions to rouse. A little impatiently it seems, it sometimes taps on the mound, quite insistently. Before long, the band of mongoose start to emerge from the warm interior, ready to start searching for a morsel or two.
As they forage through the shrubs and grass, the hornbill perches on branches above, snapping up any unfortunate insects, disturbed by the mongoose.
What does the mongoose get out of this, apart from a rude awakening? Well, since the hornbill gets an easy meal, the mongoose gets in return, greater safety that the hornbill’s higher vantage point gives them. Should the hornbill spot something dangerous, an eagle or another ground predator, it will utter an alarm calls, sending the mongoose scurrying to the nearest shelter.
This is known as mutualism. Both species are benefiting from the other with neither being negatively affected. In these photographs it looks as though the mongoose are curious about the interaction of the two hornbills. Perhaps they are wondering who will be their next alarm clock.
Mutualism of dwarf mongoose and hornbills explained.
Video length: 2 minutes 14 seconds. Video source: University of Montana, Evolutionary Ecology of East Africa
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