You wouldn’t think there would be much of a relationship between three such distinct entities, but it turns out the Dwarf Mongoose and the Yellow-billed Hornbill (subject of an earlier post on “flying bananas”) tend to congregate together at abandoned termite mounds, forming a tight interdependent connection with each other.
An abandoned or unused termite colony makes the perfect home for mongooses, because it is cool, well ventilated, and usually contains numerous chambers or rooms for the mongooses to use as a retreat from daytime heat or predators.
and that’s where the “flying banana” (Yellow-billed Hornbill) comes in…
The Hornbills are wary birds, cognizant of potential predation by raptors, and will screech in alarm when one is sighted, allowing the mongooses to scramble for cover. As a result, mongooses don’t tend to come out to forage unless a number of hornbills are present, and hornbills only congregate where there are dwarf mongoose colonies.
And it all starts with the termites that built the durable tower of mud and saliva over hundreds of years.
Mound-building termites (not close relatives of social bees and wasps, but of social cockroaches!) typically locate their home near a source of vegetation, like a rotting tree or shrub thicket. They harvest the woody vegetation to provide a source of nutrition for a particular fungus which they grow in chambers called “gardens” within the mound, regulating the temperature and airflow to be conducive to fungus growth. They then live off the fungus garden.