People in Africa use honeyguides to track the wild bees and harvest their honey, and they developed a special relationship with the animals which helps them both access food.
A new research shows that humans use a special sound to call honeyguides and that the birds make a choice of their own when it comes to which human they would partner with.
The Way of the Honeyguides
Over the time, humans have trained a varied group of animals to help them with finding food. Dogs, cormorants or falcons, they are either domesticated or trained.
The cooperation between the birds and the humans in Africa was little known of. The honeyguides need the wax from the bee nest, and the humans use the honey. The birds need people because they are able to smoke the nest and open it so that they come afterward and collect the wax.
The honeyguides have a special sound that attracts people’s attention, and then fly and indicate the direction of the nest. On the other hand, humans also use a particular call to communicate with the birds. Each of the partners tries to enhance cooperation and the chances to locate vital sources of food increase too.
Mutualism and Evolutionary Biology
The study had been conducted by evolutionary biologists from the University of Cambridge and University of Cape Town.
The experts believe that the relationship evolved through natural selection throughout thousands of years. The call is passed from generation to generation and sounds like a trill followed by a grunt.
The researchers recorded the call used in finding bees and played it along with two other bird calls in order to see if the honeyguides reacted. They accurately answered to their particular call and ignored the other two.
The honeyguides responded in a proportion of 66% to their special sound, and in 54% of the cases they lead the humans to a bee nest, which helps the birds get their wax.
In other parts of Africa, people still used honeyguides to help them find the honey, but they had different sounds to call them with.
While the honeyguide is a good partner to humans, the creatures are not as fair play in their collaboration with other birds, which they use to care for their offspring. The honeyguides are acting just like the cuckoos, laying eggs in other birds’ nests. However, after they hatch, the youngsters kill the other small birds from the nest.
The cooperation between honeyguides and humans had been observed ever since 1588 when a missionary described the species and their behavior.
Another example of mutualism is offered by the dolphins, which chase mullets into fishermen’s nets and in the process they manage to catch more fish for themselves.
Image Source: Wikipedia