10 Animals That Work Together and Help Each Other

Written by Angie Menjivar
Updated: September 1, 2023
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It’s called mutualism. While some animals are solitary, others understand the power of cooperation. Although some pairings are unlikely, somehow, they manage to create social bonds with mutual benefit. Discover 10 animals that work together and help each other below!

10 Animals That Work Together and Help Each Other

1. Cattle Egrets and Water Buffalo

In Sub-Saharan Africa, you often see birds with white plumage and yellow beaks known as cattle egrets (scientific name: Bubulcus ibis) on top of the common water buffalo. They just sit and travel on their backs while they feast on fleas, ticks, and other insects. They are serving a purpose with the buffalo. It’s like they have an unwritten and silent contract.

buffalo with two white egrets on the neck,Chobe,Botswana

Cattle egrets sit and travel on the backs of water buffalo feasting on fleas, ticks, and other insects.

©Karel Gallas/Shutterstock.com

The cattle egrets eat their food and get a ride, and the buffaloes are protected from harmful insects they wouldn’t be able to reach themselves. When not on the buffalo’s backs, cattle egrets spend time by their feet, taking advantage of the water buffalo’s movements. When they kick up grass, they reveal insects, which is what cattle egrets love most. These birds can also be found in shallow water and agricultural areas but it’s common to see these two hanging out in little groups. Two birds on a water buffalo’s back and two by its feet!

2. Zebras and Ostriches                                                           

These two can coexist in the wild. They tend to form herds as they find protection from predators by being in large groups. Zebras are quick to kick or bite, which seems to work for them. But ostriches care so much for their nesting sites that they run off any other animal that attempts to enter their area.                                                                                                            

Zebra and ostrich in african bush. Etosha national Park, Ombika, Kunene, Namibia. True wildlife photography

Zebras and ostriches compensate for one another’s poor senses.


They are a perfect match as the zebras have excellent eyesight and are able to see danger from far away. Ostriches have poor sight but have a great sense of smell. That is how they help each other survive. It’s a jungle out there but thankfully they have found a way to make it on a daily basis. Where one fails, the other picks up the slack — so they stick together. They give a great example of teamwork!

3. Honeyguides and Honey Badgers

Honeyguides are birds that have mastered a beautiful plan. Since honey is their favorite and it is difficult for them to get it out of a beehive, they have made an unspoken pact. They invite or “guide” their friends, the honey badgers, to get the precious liquid out of the beehive, so they can both enjoy it. They live well in harmony serving each other. Everybody wins!

Birds that lay eggs in other birds' nests: Honeyguide

Honeyguides have a symbiotic relationship with honey badgers.

©iStock.com/neil bowman

4. Sea Anemones and Clownfish

Sea anemones protect clownfish by allowing them to hide within their tentacles. Clownfish create a slimy substance that protects them from the stinging of sea anemones, which demonstrates how perfectly they’ve evolved to engage in this behavior. Clownfish return the favor by attracting food for their friends the anemones while they nibble on their infected or dead parts. Clownfish also excrete and provide it as food back to the anemones and the recycling of life begins again.

Clownfish in a sea anemone.

Sea anemones protect clownfish by allowing them to hide within their tentacles.

©Alex Stemmers/Shutterstock.com

5. Badgers and Coyotes

These two animals, though unlikely friends, work well together. Coyotes rely on their speed and agility while badgers are known for their digging and burrowing abilities. They are both carnivorous and mostly go for rodents, rabbits, and squirrels. They have a common goal to cooperate with each other when the coyotes can no longer chase prey due to a narrow space. That’s when it comes in handy to be a badger, as they take over and end up sharing a feast. Although they work well together, they don’t stick with each other full-time. Each species goes off on its own to hunt as well.  

American Badger after hunting with Coyote

Coyotes and badgers have a long-standing agreement that demonstrates why it can be advantageous for enemies to cooperate, even though they don’t always get along.

©Dennis Laughlin/Shutterstock.com

6. Drongos and Meerkats

Drongos are songbirds that are both helpful and clever. When a meerkat is hunting, it has to keep an eye out for predators. However, the most advantageous perspective is from above. An aerial view allows for a greater range of vision and since songbirds have this advantage, they use it to help meerkats out. When a drongo sees a predator, it calls out, letting the meerkat know it’s in danger.

The meerkat quickly retreats, often dropping its prey as it runs away to ensure survival. As helpful as drongos are, they have also realized that when a meerkat runs, it drops a meal. So, sometimes, drongos get deceptive, calling out even when there’s no predator in sight. The meerkats respond by retreating and the songbirds get to enjoy extra snacks for the day!

What Do Meerkats Eat?

As omnivores, Meerkats eat insects, small reptiles, small mammals, and scorpions.


7. Humming Frogs and Colombian Lesserblack Tarantulas

Colombian lesserblack tarantulas and humming frogs are animals that work together and help each other. They are so close that they move in together sometimes, becoming roommates in a burrow. The tarantula protects the humming frogs from predators and when it’s done eating, it saves a bit for the frogs, which happily snatch up the leftovers. While the frog benefits greatly, the tarantula receives repayment in the form of protection as well. The frogs eat up insects to keep the tarantula’s eggs safe — it makes sense that with such an intimate pairing, these two creatures would choose to live together.

The Colombian lesserblack tarantula, Xenesthis immanis, is a large terrestrial bird spider, with hairy legs and body and a beautiful pattern.

The Colombian lesserblack tarantula pairs with the humming frog for a mutually beneficial environment.

©Jens Otte/Shutterstock.com

8. Plovers and Egyptian Crocodiles

Crocodiles are known for being ruthless, opportunistic hunters. They drag prey into the water and drown it if their powerful bites don’t immediately kill. However, when there’s something in it for them, they display restraint. Plovers are wading birds that have figured out how to eat a crocodile’s leftovers and not get killed in the process. They perch on the crocodile’s head and snack on the bits of food left in their teeth. The crocodile, instead of thrashing about, throwing the plover into the air, or slamming its jaws down on it, allows the process. The crocodile’s benefit is a very personalized flossing service!

A crocodile resting in the sun on a sandbank with his mouth open.A blacksmith plover stands in the background.Since crocodiles are coldblooded they love warming up by laying in the sun on sandbanks.

Plovers keep crocodile teeth clean.

©speedshutter Photography/Shutterstock.com

9. Gobies and Pistol Shrimp

In the animal kingdom, there are support animals the way guide dogs help those who are blind. Gobies serve as the “guide dog” for pistol shrimp, which have awful eyesight. Although they have strong claws, their poor eyesight renders them extremely vulnerable to predators. This is where gobies come in. They stay close to the pistol shrimp, gently guiding them along. If a predator is close, gobies signal to the pistol shrimp that it’s time to hide. Together, they retreat into the shrimp’s burrow so they can conceal themselves and let the predator pass. They’ve developed a buddy system that works perfectly!


Pistol shrimp have poor eyesight, so gobies guide them.


10. Mites and Carrion Beetles

Dead, rotting flesh, as unappealing as it sounds, is a treat for some animals and insects, including carrion beetles. Not only is it something to snack on for carrion beetles, but it also serves as the perfect environment for their larvae to develop, as they get to enjoy the same sustenance. However, this isn’t an original idea, which means other insects are often in the environment as well. Since this creates competitive conditions, young carrion beetles are in danger.

To clear out other insects and give their babies an opportunity to thrive, carrion beetles carry on mites, letting them settle onto their backs as they make their way over to the rotting flesh feast. The mites get to enjoy a full-on limo ride over to the buffet as if they were special guests. And they are. Once they arrive, they eat up all the other eggs and larvae in the environment, leaving only the host beetle’s babies alone. It’s very much a win-win scenario, except for the other insects.

Carrion beetle isolated

Carrion beetles differ in size and appearance depending on the species.


The photo featured at the top of this post is © Angela Gifford/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Angie Menjivar is a writer at A-Z-Animals primarily covering pets, wildlife, and the human spirit. She has 14 years of experience, holds a Bachelor's degree in psychology, and continues her studies into human behavior, working as a copywriter in the mental health space. She resides in North Carolina, where she's fallen in love with thunderstorms and uses them as an excuse to get extra cuddles from her three cats.

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