Dwarf mongoose and hornbill mutualism in the Taru desert, Kenya

Summary

Dwarf mongooses in the Taru desert region of Kenya form foraging communities with a variety of endemic bird species, especially hornbills. The prey spectra of the mongooses and hornbills overlap almost completely. For the other bird species forming the foraging community only partial overlap exists. The association between the birds and mongooses is actively sought by both parties. The birds wait in tress around the termite mound where the monogooses are sleeping for them to emerge and the mongooses delay their foraging departure if no birds are present. There is a positive relationship between the number of mongooses in the group and the number of birds accompanying them. A true mutualism only exists between the mongooses and the two hornbill species Tockus deckeni and T. flavirostris since their presence or arrival affects the subsequent start of foraging. These two hornbill species have also been observed to influence the start of foraging actively by means of two behaviour patterns termed ‘chivvying’ and ‘waking’. Both the mongooses and birds are exposed to a high predator pressure from raptors with an overlap in the birds of prey predating the various species. This predator pressure is counteracted behaviourally by the mongooses by means of an altruistic behaviour pattern, ‘guarding’. Both mongooses and birds warn vocally and flee when a raptor is sighted. The mongooses modify their guarding behaviour to compensate for the warning behaviour of the birds in two ways: (a) fewer mongooses guard when large numbers of birds are present and vice versa, (b) the frequency of the mongooses' intraspecific warning calls is significantly reduced in cases where birds are present in comparison with those where they are absent. The birds also sight and respond to the raptor first on significantly more occasions than the mongooses. In addition, the birds also warn for raptor species which do not predate them but which are mongoose predators, not, however, for raptors which are not mongoose predators. This mutualistic association with its high degree of compensatory behaviour by both parties appears to be unique for free-living vertebrates and has its closest parallel in the trophobiosis described for ants and aphids.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References

  1. Altmann SA, Altmann J (1970) Baboon ecology: African field research. University of Chicago Press, Chicago

    Google Scholar 

  2. Bernstein IS (1964) A comparison of new and old world monkey social organizations and behaviour. Am J Phys Anthropol 22:233–238

    Google Scholar 

  3. Bernstein IS (1967) Intertaxa interactions in a Malayan primate community, Folia Primatol 7:198–207

    Google Scholar 

  4. Bradbury J (1977) Social organization and communication. In: Wimsatt W (ed) Biology of bats. Academic Press, New York

    Google Scholar 

  5. Carl EA (1971) Population control in Arctic Ground Squirrels. Ecology 52:395–413

    Google Scholar 

  6. Elder WH, Elder NL (1970) Social groupings and primate associations of the bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus). Mammalia 34:356–362

    Google Scholar 

  7. Estes RD, Goddard J (1967) Prey selection and hunting behaviour of the African Wild Dog. J Wildl Manage, 31:52–70

    Google Scholar 

  8. Fiscus CH, Niggol K (1965) Observations of cetaceans off California, Oregon and Washington. (Special Scientific Report, US Dept of the Interior) Fish Wildl Serv 498:1–27

    Google Scholar 

  9. Hinde RA (1952) The behaviour of the Great Tit (Parus major) and some other related species. Behaviour (Suppl) 2:1–31

    Google Scholar 

  10. Lawick H van, Lawick, Goodall J van (1971) Innocent killers. Houghton Mifflin Boston

    Google Scholar 

  11. Marler PR (1965) Communication in monkeys and apes. In: DeVore I (ed) Primate behaviour: field studies of monkeys and apes. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York

    Google Scholar 

  12. Meier V, Rasa OAE, Scheich H (1983) Call-system similarity in a ground-living social bird and a mammal in the bush habitat. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 12:5–9

    Google Scholar 

  13. Morse DH (1967) Foraging relationships of Brown-headed Nuthatches and Pine Warblers, Ecology 48:94–103

    Google Scholar 

  14. Moynihan MH (1968) Social mimicry: character convergence versus character displacement. Evolution 22:315–331

    Google Scholar 

  15. Moynihan MH (1970) Some behaviour patterns of platyrrhine monkeys: II, Saguinius geoffroyi and some other tamarins. Smithson Contrib Zool 28

  16. Nicolai J (1973) Vogelleben. Belser, Stuttgart

    Google Scholar 

  17. Pilleri G, Knuckley J (1969) Behaviour patterns of some Delphinidae observed in the Western Mediterranean. Z Tierpsychol 26:48–72

    Google Scholar 

  18. Rasa OAE (1977) The ethology and sociology of the Dwarf mongoose (Helogale undulata rufula). Z. Tierpsychol 43:337–406

    Google Scholar 

  19. Rasa OAE (1981) Raptor recognition—an interspecific tradition? Naturwissenschaften 68:151

    Google Scholar 

  20. Washburn SL, DeVore I (1961) The social life of baboons. Sci Am 204:62–71

    Google Scholar 

  21. Way MJ (1963) Mutualism between ants and honeydew-producing Homoptera. Annu Rev Entomol 8:307–344

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Anne, O., Rasa, E. Dwarf mongoose and hornbill mutualism in the Taru desert, Kenya. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 12, 181–190 (1983). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00290770

Download citation

Keywords

  • Bird Species
  • Behaviour Pattern
  • Predator Pressure
  • Close Parallel
  • High Predator