, 23 tweets, 12 min read Read on Twitter
NEXT UP: #1 Plains Zebra (Equus quagga) & Yellow-Billed Oxpecker (Buphagus africanus) vs #8 seed Aardvark (Orycteropus afer) & Aardvark Cucumber (Cucumis humifructus) #2019MMM
In Round 1, Oxpecker (& Zebra) picked off the Batfly (& Gammaproteobacteria). Aardvark & Cucurbit advanced against #Tripletrouble monkeys in an epic #BeastieBoys Battle #2019MMM
Why do Zebras have stripes? Scientists had thought these stripes were anti-predator devices, making it difficult for predators to cue in on 1 individual among the herd (called disruptive coloration) #2019MMM
Recent research indicates stripes actually makes things difficult for biting flies! theatlantic.com/science/archiv… by @edyong2019 & journals.plos.org/plosone/articl… #2019MMM
Despite Zebra stripes disrupting the "approach for landing" of biting flies, Zebras still attract plenty of juicy & crunchy yummies for Oxpecker #2019MMM
Aardvarks prefer meals of termites & ants. Aardvarks will dig into the sides or center of termite mounds while they eat, rarely destroying the colony (it can be easily rebuilt &re-established) animaldiversity.org/accounts/Oryct… (& included refs) #2019MMM
Termites are ecosystem engineers- kind of like arid-adapted insect beavers. Termite mounds create "nutrient islands" for many species, including plants, ants, ant-eating (mymecophagous) animals, & plant-eating (folivorous) animals science.sciencemag.org/content/347/62… #2019MMM
#TermitesBringAllTheAnimalsToTheYard in Etosha National Park, Namibia etoshanationalpark.org. Termite mounds abound, surrounded by healthy grass. A male Zebra, the stallion, is on guard while his harem of females & their foals are resting #2019MMM
Several of the females in this harem have recently given birth & have entered post-partum estrous, or "foal heat" (animaldiversity.org/accounts/Equus… & refs). These females are receptive for mating & the male Zebra is on guard to protect the receptive females from interlopers #2019MMM
Aardvark is usually nocturnal, but has found a productive termite mound & is using his long tongue (can extend up to 30 cm) to lap up sweet, sweet termites. Aardvark is far from his burrow; he can cover distances of > 2-5 km/night while foraging animaldiversity.org/accounts/Oryct… #2019MMM
Oxpecker is hanging out on the Zebra stallion, picking away at some ticks. Aardvark cucumber is 200 mm (~8 inches) underground, slowly & safely growing under the cover of layers of dirt #TheONLYGeocarpCucumber #2019MMM
Our Zebra stallion is paying the Aardvark no mind. He is more concerned with defending the receptive females in his harem. A bachelor group of male zebras is in the vicinity, & one of the bachelor males decides to take a go at displacing our dominant stallion #2019MMM
Battle of the Zebras ensues. Ears are laid back & there's biting, kicking, chasing, & charging. Example here: & here: (watch from 2:00-2:45) #2019MMM
Dug down for termites, Aardvark is able to block out the sun... but the dense earthen mound ALSO muffles the sounds of Zebra combat from the Aardvark's sensitive hearing #2019MMM
Backing out of the termite mound, Aardvark is in the midst of flailing hooves & screaming stallions! #2019MMM
Aardvark bleats in fear & stands upright on his hind legs & tail to use his large front claws to defend himself! #2019MMM
Aardvark's eyesight is poor, the bright sunflares make it worse, & the battling Zebras stripes are all mixed together! #2019MMM
The interloping zebra bites down on the neck of the Zebra stallion. Angry, the Zebra stallion swings around & kicks the interloper in the face #2019MMM
The interloper runs off in defeat as the Zebra stallion rears up with kicking hooves in victory, dropping down hard with the full weight of his full 1750-stoat body #StoatsAsMeasurement #2019MMM
The Zebra lands square on the head of the Aardvark, cracking Aardvark's skull & breaking his neck #Carnage #2019MMM
With no Aardvark to dig up Aardvark Cucumber, the plant's seeds remain entombed, never to be dispersed #2019MMM
Small rivulets of blood run down Zebra stallion's neck from the bite wound of the interloper, attracting a horsefly (despite the stripes) that is quickly snatched up by the Oxpecker #2019MMM
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