The National Digest

Animal Friendships Change With The Weather in African Savanna

Some animals stick with each other through thick and thin, but others are—literally—fair-weather friends, abandoning their buddies from other species when the dry season dries up food resources. A new study of herbivore social interactions in Kenya’s savanna suggests two things bring such grazers back together: rain and roaming wildebeest herds.

Plant-eating animals often benefit from grazing alongside other species. Thomson’s gazelles, for example, are less at risk of being killed by predators like lions and hyenas when they join with their cousins, Grant’s gazelles. But not every such species-to-species relationship lasts the year.

To find out which species like to hang out together—and how that shifts when the environment changes—researchers studied 12 common herbivores, including ostriches, zebras, buffalos, and four species of antelope. The researchers examined species-on-species interactions for 1 year in Kenya’s Msasai Mara National Reserve.

Read more…