7 Examples of Animal Species Working Together in the Wild

These animal partnerships show how animals rely on one another to survive

Life is just better with friends, isn't it? That's as true for humans as it is for many animal species. So it's no wonder that some species have found ways to rely on one another for food, shelter, and protection from predators.

It's called symbiosis - when two species form a relationship that is mutually beneficial to both parties. Here are seven great examples of animal partnerships in the wild.

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Water Buffalo and Cattle Egrets

Water buffalo and egret
A water buffalo and cattle egret in the Lower Zambezi. Getty Images/Heinrich van den Berg

Cattle egrets live on insects. And in the savannah, they have found the perfect place to hunt them. Atop the ubiquitous water buffalo. From their high perch, they can see the bugs and swoop in to nab them.

But they don't just take a free ride. They earn their spot by picking harmful insects like fleas and ticks off of the water buffalo. And they also have a heightened sense of danger and are able to alert their host if danger is in the area.

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Carrion Beetles and Mites

Carrion beetles and mites
Carrion beetles inside a Hydnora africana flower in Africa. Getty Images

As their name suggests, carrion beetles thrive by eating dead animals. They also lay their eggs there so that their larvae can eat the meat as they develop. But they are not the only insects to use this trick, and often times, faster-developing larvae will eat their rivals to reduce competition.

Enter the mites. When carrion beetles travel to their next meal, they carry mites on their backs - giving them a free ride and access to food. In exchange, the mites swarm the dead meat upon arrival, eating any eggs or larvae that don't belong to carrion beetles. Competition is reduced and they earn their next free ride.

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Ostriches and Zebras

Zebra and ostrich
Zebras and ostriches work together to stay alert to predators. Robert C Nunnington/Getty Images

Zebras and ostriches are both prey for faster animals. As such, they both have to maintain a heightened sense of alertness for danger.

The problem is that zebras - while they have excellent eyesight - don't really have a good sense of smell. Ostriches, on the other hand, have a great sense of smell but not-so-great eyesight. 

So the two smart species hang out together, relying on the eyes of the zebra and the noses of the ostriches to keep predators at bay.

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Colombian Lesserblack Tarantulas and Humming Frogs

Colombian lesserblack tarantula and humming frog
The Colombian lesserblack tarantula and humming frog work together to survive. Getty Images

At first glance, one might just think that the Colombian lesserblack tarantula doesn't eat the humming frog because he doesn't like the taste. But there is more to their relationship than that. 

These specific spiders and frogs have been found in the same area, and even living in the same burrows as one another. From the spiders, the frogs get protection (no other predator would come close,) as well as the leftovers from the spider's meal.

So what do the tarantulas get in return? The frogs eat ants and other insects that might otherwise feast on the tarantula's eggs.

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Egyptian Crocodiles and Plovers

Egyptian crocodile and plover
The Egyptian crocodile 'opens wide' for a cleaning from the plover. Pinterest/Roger Jakobsen

The animal partnership between the Egyptian crocodile and the plover is one that almost has to be seen to be believed.

As the picture shows, the plover finds food by picking it out of the teeth of the crocodile. That's one brave bird! While it eats, it's keeping the croc's teeth clean and healthy. Food for the plover and a dental checkup for the crocodile.

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Honey Badgers and Honeyguides

Honey badger and Honeyguide
Honeyguides lead honey badgers to the prize and then swoop in to clean up. Getty Images

As their name implies, honeyguides love their honey. And they can find it easily. But there's just one problem. They get to it when it is inside of a beehive.

Their solution? Seek out the honey badger, a mammal that likes honey almost as much as they do. The honeybadgers break open the beehives and grab a snack, leaving the rest of the honey for the birds to gobble up.

Win-win for everyone!

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Pistol Shrimp and Gobies

Pistol shrimp and yellownose prawn gobi.
The symbiotic relationship between a pistol shrimp and a yellownose prawn gobi. Getty Images/Franco Banfi

Pistol shrimp are fierce predators that can snap their claws together so tightly that a jet of water shoots out. But for as good as they are at catching prey, they are also very vulnerable to predators themselves because of their bad eyesight.

Thus, pistol shrimp have developed a partnership with gobies, fish with good eyesight that acts as 'seeing eye fish' for the shrimp. The gobies' tail fin stays in contact with the shrimp's antennae ​so that the fish can signal when danger is near. In return, the gobies get free access to the pistol shrimps' burrows so that they can both hide to escape predators.