When it comes to the wild, animals must do everything that it takes to survive. Zebras and ostriches are both strong animals with fascinating and unique features. However, they’re not the strongest species in their natural ecosystem or their food chain.

These animals serve as prey to several different predators, including cheetahs, hyenas, leopards, and wild dogs. On top of these intimidating prey, ostriches and zebras also have to watch out for the African savannah’s apex predator, the formidable lion.

Despite being the target of many different animals, zebras and ostriches are excellent survivors and have formed a symbiotic relationship and learned to work together over the years to keep their populations alive.


What Is a Symbiotic Relationship?

Zebras and ostriches share a special symbiotic relationship. In the animal world, symbiosis is a type of relationship shared between two species within an ecosystem. There are three types of symbiotic relationships:

  • Mutual – Both species receive benefits from the relationship
  • Commensal – One species benefits from the relationship while the other remains unaffected
  • Parasitism – One species benefits from the relationship by harming the other species

Zebras and ostriches share a mutually symbiotic relationship. Mutual symbiotic relationships can be further broken down to either be obligate or facultative.

Obligate relationships refer to relationships where one species cannot survive without the other. Facultative relationships refer to relationships where it’s possible for two species to survive without the other, but they greatly benefit if they work together.

So overall, zebras and ostriches have a mutual relationship that’s facultative. While they don’t necessarily need each other, they both rely on each other’s strengths to make up for their own shortcomings and increase their chances of survival.

zebra and ostrich
Image Credit: xatoma, Pixabay


Zebra and Ostrich Characteristics

Zebras and ostriches are entirely different species, yet they’re able to coexist and even work together in their natural habitat. While they may look like unlikely friends, their mutual relationship actually makes perfect sense when you stop to examine what these animals bring to the table.

Zebras are very aware of their surroundings. They have an excellent sense of hearing and smell, so they tend to do a better job of detecting any strange or suspicious sounds and scents than other animals in the African savannah.

Ostriches don’t have the best sense of smell, but they have excellent eyesight. Their tall height also gives them an aerial view and enables them to scan and spot potential predators hiding in tall grasses.

Zebras and ostriches in the wild
Image Credit: Artush, Shutterstock


The Symbiotic Relationship Between Zebras and Ostriches

It’s a popular belief that zebras share a mutual relationship with ostriches because they have poor eyesight. However, this isn’t the case because zebras can see very well.

So, this is why the relationship between zebras and ostriches is facultative. The two species can and do survive without the other. However, they can work together to enhance their protection against predators.

While zebras have good eyesight, it pales in comparison to the ostrich’s excellent eyesight. Therefore, zebras can end up relying on ostriches to further reinforce their defensive barrier against predators. Ostriches can see further and more accurately than zebras and can be another set of eyes that are on the lookout for danger.

Ostriches also gain an added advantage by relying on the zebra’s sensitive ears. Zebras can rotate their ears in almost any direction. They also have a keen sense of taste that can detect the quality of their food. Ostriches’ diet includes grasses, and zebras can lead ostriches to safe food sources.

Both animals also have a powerful kick that can wound predators. Ostriches take things a step further and have dangerous claws that can easily penetrate through skin and animal hide.

Lastly, there’s strength in numbers. If zebras and ostriches move together, the individual animals in the group have a higher chance of survival because they’re less likely to get singled out by a predator.


Final Thoughts

Zebras and ostriches may look like competitors because they both graze and can eat some similar foods. However, they aren’t known to attack each other and actually work together to increase their chance of survival.

Both zebras and ostriches are impressive animals on their own. However, it’s amazing to see them help each other out to evade and outsmart their predators.

Featured Image Credit: tratong, Shutterstock