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Noted for their thick skin are both rhinoceroses (1.5 to 5 cm) and hippopotamuses (6 cm). They are further noted for their symbiotic relationship with bird called an oxpecker:

Both the English and scientific names arise from their habit of perching on large mammals (both wild and domesticated) such as cattle, zebras, impalas, hippopotamuses, or rhinoceroses, and giraffes, eating ticks, small insects, botfly larvae, and other parasites.
Oxpecker, Wikipedia

I feel like the thick skins of rhinoceroses and hippopotamuses would make them invulnerable to many parasites (such as those listed above), so I'm interested in finding out more specifically what oxpeckers eat from the skin of these two mammals.

Question: What do oxpeckers eat from thick-skinned hippopotamuses and rhinoceroses?

In the case of hippopotamuses, I feel like their semi-aquatic lifestyle would further impact many parasites.

A mostly submerged hippopotamus with two oxpeckers on its back (image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Red_billed_oxpeckers_on_hippo.jpg)

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  • $\begingroup$ I think you should (re)read that Wikipedia article — later on it says "They feed on ectoparasites, particularly ticks, as well as insects infesting wounds and the flesh and blood of some wounds as well. They are sometimes classified as parasites, because they open wounds on the animals' backs." There are also numerous references at the end of that article including at least one about rhinos ... $\endgroup$ – tyersome Jan 18 '20 at 3:51
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks! I admit it, I didn't read that part of the Wikipedia page prior to posting. Although I'm still uncertain as to how oxpeckers use them as a source of ticks despite their thick skin, and, in the case of hippopotamuses, being submerged for large amounts of time. $\endgroup$ – Rebecca J. Stones Jan 18 '20 at 4:29
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    $\begingroup$ That's the point — they appear to primarily use them as a source of blood. Think of them as little feathered vampires. 🙃 $\endgroup$ – tyersome Jan 18 '20 at 4:45
  • $\begingroup$ many is not the same as all $\endgroup$ – John Jan 18 '20 at 16:10

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