A new study has found a mutually beneficial relationship between large mammals and amphibians for the first time. Researchers spotted marsh frogs, Pelophylax ridibundu, riding on the back of water buffaloes in the Kizilirmak Delta in northern Turkey.
There are several well documented examples of mutually beneficial relationships (known as mutualism) in nature. For example, you will often see zebras and ostriches together. Zebras have poor eyesight and a good sense of smell and vice versa for ostriches and therefore they can protect each other from predators.
Similarly, Clownfish are one of the only species who do not get stung by sea anemones as it provides a hiding place for the small clownfish but the clownfish attracts larger fish for the anemone.
However, before this study was published there was very little evidence to link amphibians and mammals in a symbiotic relationship.
The study observed as many as 27 individual frogs eating flies on the buffaloes’ backs and although food is thought to be the primary driver of this behaviour, it is thought that the frogs also benefit from the body heat of the mammals which could warm the frogs when air temperatures drop. It is not clear what the buffaloes gain apart from the reduction in flies in their shaggy coat.
It is thought that the frogs only exhibit this behaviour when populations are particularly high, in the Autumn, and food is scarce.