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Frogs have their pastures too

07.08.2017 Nature

Photo: Nizamettin Yavuz

We have all seen the photos of bird cleaning parasites from the skin of an elephant or giraffe. Well, what do you say to ... frogs who prey on flies on a cow's back?

Frogs sitting on a buffalo's head is not a scene from a cartoon. Such situations can really be observed in nature as they are another illustration of the relationships between species. This configuration has just been observed in Turkey, in the Kızılırmak River delta on the Black Sea. The on the subject appeared in the journal "Acta Herpetologica". The authors are: Dr. Piotr Zduniak from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Dr. Kiraz Erciyas-Yavuz from the Ornithology Research Center at the Ondokuz Mayis Universitesi in Turkey, and Prof. Piotr Tryjanowski from Poznań University of Life Sciences.


"The first observations were accidental, as is often the case in environmental biology studies" - noted Dr. Zduniak, the first author of the paper. "I was walking with binoculars near a birdwatching station, and suddenly I saw several frogs sitting on a hairy >cow<. I found it very interesting and we started to check whether the phenomenon was accidental or repetitive - it turned out to be repetitive and clearly there was something to it".


The query of scientific sources and popular Internet resources (Google, Google Images, Flickr, and YouTube, in various languages) allowed to determine that there was no information on direct relationships between amphibians and large mammals. Researchers have come across only four photographs of "frog rodeo" - three of them from South Asia, one from Hungary. All depicted buffalo standing in water, with frogs sitting on their heads.


Frogs on a buffalo are more than a coincidence; this is indicated by the results of the observations conducted in Turkey in autumn 2012. In the course of 12 field sessions, marsh frogs (actually whole groups of them) could be seen ten times on the backs of buffalos (Bubalus bubalis). The record holder had 27 frogs on its back!


The authors of the publication suggest that frogs are most likely attracted to large mammals for two reasons. "Firstly, they are after the insects attracted by buffaloes, and secondly, the warmth of mammals is especially important for poikilothermic amphibians when the air temperature is low - the phenomenon was observed in autumn" - said Piotr Zduniak.


It appears that this relationship benefits one species, and the other species at least does not mind.


It is not known yet whether frogs render "cosmetic services" for the buffalo by eating flies. This image may, however, evoke association with other species that enter into exotic arrangements. At the top of the list are birds - oxpeckers, which eat insects on the bodies of buffalos, rhinoceroses, zebras, antelopes or elephants. Another bird, Egyptian plover, is sometimes called a living "toothbrush", because it is believed to clean crocodile's mouth. From the oceans, best known are small fish - cleaner wrasses, which feed on parasites of much larger Perciformes.


PAP - Science and Scholarship in Poland


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Tags: environment , frog , life

Photo: Nizamettin Yavuz

Photo: Nizamettin Yavuz

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