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Awesome Examples Of Radically Different Animals Working Together

Life's just better when you're friends with someone wildly different from yourself. The following pairs get along just fine - and even help one another out.

1. Egrets and water buffaloes

(Flickr/katie_hunt)

Many large birds forage on their own out in the forest, but cattle egrets have learned to get by with a little help from their friends. By setting up shop around water buffalo and other large grazing animals, they're able to swoop in and collect the insects that wander out of the brush. And egrets take it a bit further, often settling on the backs of the buffalo (or a horse or a cow in America) and pick them clean of harmful insects like ticks or fleas. Egrets are also more sensitive to their surroundings than most grazing animals and are able to trigger the alarm, so to speak, when predators, hunters or other dangers approach.

2. Plover birds and crocodiles

(WikimediaCommons/Henry Scherren)

The tiny Egyptian plover bird has the courage of a lion. The little guys spend their time perching on the open mouths of crocodiles looking for food. The plover will pick up leftover bits stuck in between the croc's teeth while the big fella just sits there and waits patiently, forgoing a potential midday snack. That's because while the plover is gleefully filling his belly with easy pickings, the crocodile is getting a routine dental checkup as the plover cleans house.

3. Meat ants and caterpillars

(Flickr/Aphidoidea)

Meat ants, also known as gravel ants, are known for building large nests of layered gravel that span upwards of 650 meters and contain around 64,000 ants. The coolest thing about them, though, is that they have an affection for caterpillars. The meat ants protect their home against large predators by swarming them and overpowering them in large numbers - and they use this tactic to protect the neighborhood caterpillars, too. That's because the caterpillars secrete sugary fluids that help nourish the ants, as well as provide a sticky substance to help build their colony. In return, the ants provide these slow guys with an army of protection.

4. Honey badgers and honeyguide birds

(Flickr/Peter G Trimming & Derek Keats)

Honeyguide birds have a sweet tooth for honey that rivals that of Winnie the Pooh, but there's one problem: they have trouble accessing it inside of beehives. The solution? Honeyguides will seek out a honey badger and lead it to the prize, then wait as the honey badger raids the beehive for it. Once the little guy has had his fill, the honeyguides will swoop in and clean up the rest.

5. Ostriches and zebras

(Flickr/swimfinfan)

Ostriches and zebras are often at risk of falling prey to faster species, so it's not too surprising that they'll team up in packs for added protection. What's great about their partnership is the specific reason why they choose one another. Zebras have excellent eyesight, but not the greatest sense of smell. Ostriches, on the other hand, have not-so-great eyesight but an amazing sense of smell. Together they are better equipped to sense impending danger, so they group together for protection. They can also be found hanging with wildebeests in certain areas for similar reasons.

6. Rufous woodpeckers and tree ants

(Flickr/Balaji Venkatesh S)

Sometimes the relationship between certain animals just can't be explained. Woodpeckers and ants are natural enemies, with both feeding off of one another (birds eat ants, who eat the eggs), but every spring something astonishing - and somewhat confusing - happens. When rufous woodpeckers are ready to lay their eggs, they lay them inside the black tree ant nest. The tree ants even carve out a hole to welcome them. The woodpecker and ants will not attack one another while the eggs are waiting to hatch. Once born, the mama woodpecker flies in and out freely to feed her young. Some speculate that the ants allow this to go on because the crumbs from the baby birds' food helps keep them fed, but the actual reason for this temporary truce is still unknown.