As obligate herbivores, bovids can dramatically affect the abundance and diversity of plant communities. Predation, or the threat of predation, has been shown to decrease overgrazing by bovids. Bovids are host to a diverse array of endo- and ectoparasites. Many species of parasitic flatworms (Cestoda and Trematoda) and roundworms spend at least part of their lifecycle in the tissues of bovid hosts. Bovids are also vulnerable to various forms of parasitic arthropods including ticks, lice, mites (Psoroptes and Sarcoptes), keds, fleas, mosquitoes, and flies. Bovids also host various forms of parasitic protozoa, including trypanosomatids, coccidians, piroplasmids, and numerous species of Giardia. In addition, various forms of bacterial and viral pathogens play an important role in bovid health and population dynamics. For example, Brucella abortus, the bacteria that causes brucellosis, affects many bovid species and rhinderpest, also known as cattle plague, is a highly contagious viral disease caused by paramyxovirus that is especially prevalent in bovids. Unfortunately, evidence suggests that recent climate change is altering host-parasite dynamics across the globe, increasing transmission rates between populations of conspecifics and hybridization rates between host specific parasite forms.
Many bovids have mutualistic relationships with other animals. Cattle egrets and cowbirds regularly live amongst many bovid species, taking advantage of insects and parasites that feed on bovids, or feeding on insects and small animals that are forced out of hiding by movement and grazing. In addition to pest removal, mutualist species can alert them to the presence of predators. Bovids also create loosely formed interspecific groups with other large herbivores such as zebras, giraffes, and ostriches, which increases the chances for predator detection.
Although bovids can serve as host to numerous species of pathogenic bacteria and protozoa, in conjunction with anaerobic fungi, these organisms are one of the major reasons that bovids are as abundant and diverse as they are today. Bacteria help break down cellulose and comprise between 60 and 90% of the microbial community present in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract of bovids. Ciliated protozoa, which makes up 10 to 40% of the microbe community within the rumen, help bacteria break down cellulose, while also feeding on starches, proteins and bacteria. The presence of anaerobic fungi in the rumen has only been known since the early 1970's. These fungi make up between 5 to 10% of the rumen's microbial abundance and are thought to help break down the cell wall of ingested plant material. Bacteria and protozoa that pass from the upper to the lower regions of the GI tract represent a significant portion of the dietary nitrogen required by their host.
Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds; soil aeration
- zebra, Equus
- giraffe, Giraffa camelopardalis
- ostrich, Struthio camelus
- cattle egret, Bubulcus ibis
- cowbird, Molothrus
- rumen bacteria, Selenomonads
- rumen bacteria, Oscillospira
- rumen protozoa, Entodinium
- rumen protozoa, Dasytricha
- rumen protozoa, Diplodinia
- rumen protozoa, Isotricha
- rumen protozoa, Epidinia
- rumen fungi, Neocallimastix
- rumen fungi, Caecomyces
- rumen fungi, Pyromyces
- rumen fungi, Orpinomyces
- nematodes, Nematoda
- tapeworms, Cestoda
- flukes, Trematoda
- ticks, Ixodoidea
- lice , Phthiraptera
- flies, Diptera
- mites, Psoroptes and Sarcoptes
- keds, Hippoboscidae
- fleas, Siphonaptera
- mosquitoes, Culicidae
- parasitic protozoa, Trypanosomatida
- parasitic protozoa, Coccidia
- parasitic protozoa, Piroplasmida
- parasitic protozoa, Giardia
- Escalante, A., F. Ayala. 1995. Evolutionary origin of Plasmodium and other Apicomplexa based on rRNA. Proceedings from the National Academy of Science, 92: 5793-5797.
- Kutz, S., E. Hoberg, L. Polley, E. Jenkins. 2005. Global warming is changing the dynamics of Arctic host–parasite systems. Proceedings from the Royal Society B, 272/1581: 2571-2576.
- Dagg, A., J. Foster. 1976. The Giraffe: Its Biology, Behavior, and Ecology. New York, NY: Van Nostrand Reinhold and Company.
- Whitaker, J., W. Hamilton. 1998. Mammals of the Eastern United States. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
No one has provided updates yet.