strange behaviors

Cool doings from the natural and human worlds

  • Richard Conniff

  • Reviews for Richard Conniff’s Books

    Every Creeping Thing: True Tales of Faintly Repulsive Wildlife: “Conniff is a splendid writer–fresh, clear, uncondescending, and with never a false step; one can’t resist quoting him.” (NY Times Book Review)

    The Species Seekers:  Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth by Richard Conniff is “a swashbuckling romp” that “brilliantly evokes that just-before Darwin era” (BBC Focus) and “an enduring story bursting at the seams with intriguing, fantastical and disturbing anecdotes” (New Scientist). “This beautifully written book has the verve of an adventure story” (Wall St. Journal)

    Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time by Richard Conniff  is “Hilariously informative…This book will remind you why you always wanted to be a naturalist.” (Outside magazine) “Field naturalist Conniff’s animal adventures … are so amusing and full color that they burst right off the page …  a quick and intensely pleasurable read.” (Seed magazine) “Conniff’s poetic accounts of giraffes drifting past like sail boats, and his feeble attempts to educate Vervet monkeys on the wonders of tissue paper will leave your heart and sides aching.  An excellent read.” (BBC Focus magazine)

  • Wall of the Dead

  • Categories

  • Advertisements

Warthog at the Bloodthirsty Mongoose Grooming Station

Posted by Richard Conniff on March 7, 2016

Looks nasty, but those mongoose are really doing the warthog a big favor (Photo: Andy Plumptre/WCS)

Looks nasty, but those mongoose are really doing the warthog a big favor (Photo: Andy Plumptre/WCS)

Yes, those mongoose are bloodthirsty, but only for the blood encapsulated in ticks that have been feeding on the warthog.  Videos of this strange behavior have been around for a while. Even so, it’s fun to be reminded.  Here’s the press release from the Wildlife Conservation Society:

New York (March 7, 2016)—Warthogs living in Uganda have learned to rid themselves of annoying ticks by seeking out the grooming services of some accommodating neighbors: a group of mongooses looking for snacks.

Specifically, the warthogs of Queen Elizabeth National Park have learned to lie down in the presence of banded mongooses. In response, the mongoose cleaning crew have learned to inspect the wild pigs for ticks, going so far as to

climb on top of their customers to gain access to more parasites.

A short article in the most recent edition of the journal Suiform Soundings describes the behavior, which has been observed by tourists to the park and was featured in a BBC video, and encourages further research on it.

“Such partnerships between different mammal species are rare, and this particular interaction illustrates a great deal of trust between participants,” said Dr. Andy Plumptre, director for WCS Albertine Rift Program, author of the new study. “It makes you wonder what else may be happening between species that we don’t see because, in order to see it, both species need to be unafraid of people.”

The common warthog is widespread throughout sub-Saharan Africa and inhabits grasslands, savannas, and woodlands. The species can grow up to five feet in length and is characterized by a pair of tusks, which the warthog uses for both digging and defense. The banded mongoose is a small cat-like carnivore that, as its common name suggests, possesses a series of bands across its back.  The species grows up to 1 ½ feet in length and travels in family groups numbering up to 40 individuals.

The warthog-mongoose encounter is a rare example of mammals exhibiting a symbiotic relationship called mutualism, where two animal species form a partnership with benefits for both groups. The warthogs get a cleaning and the mongooses get a meal. Other examples of mutualism include rhinos, zebras, and other animals that receive visits from parasite-eating birds called oxpeckers, and bees that feed on the nectar of flowers and deliver pollen to other plants.

“Wild pigs never fail to amaze me,” commented Dr. Erik Meijaard, Chair of the IUCN/SSC Wild Pigs Specialist Group. “Not many scientists are interested in studying the 18 species of wild pig, but behaviors like the one described here, reiterate how uniquely adaptive, intelligent, and even cute wild pigs are. Pigs play important roles in ecosystem and their protection helps many other species.”

WCS is working to conserve the Queen Elizabeth National Park, one of the most biodiverse savanna parks in Africa, by supporting the Uganda Wildlife Authority improve its law enforcement and monitoring of the park. Unique animal behavior, such as this mutualism between mongooses and warthogs, is just one of the special features of this site.



One Response to “Warthog at the Bloodthirsty Mongoose Grooming Station”

  1. […] Everything Is Crumbling. An influential psychological theory, borne out in hundreds of experiments, may have just been debunked. How can so many scientists have been so wrong? If You Don’t Think a One-Degree Temperature Rise Matters, Read This Living With Deep-Sea Mining Lamar Smith: Still Fishing with Dynamite Warthog at the Bloodthirsty Mongoose Grooming Station […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s