I ate a wildebeest; when I’m done
Please pick the leeches from my tongue
Get the bits from between my teeth*
I’ll protect you from the other beasts.
*This cartoon is based on the popular image of the bird called the Egyptian Plover, or “crocodile dentist”, that supposedly has a symbiotic relationship with the crocodile, picking food from between its teeth and snatching leeches off its tongue. Actually, the croc’s teeth ar too far apart for food to become lodged in between, and there hasn’t been photographic evidence of the plover pulling a leech off a croc’s tongue. Still, the birds do wander in and out of the reptiles’ mouths when they come to the shore to “gape”–hang out with their mouths open to cool themselves–and they probably do find the occasional fly or bug in there. Crocodiles are just smart enough to not waste time and energy trying to capture small, agile creatures like the birds and don’t bother snapping their jaws shut on them, and animals who might expend that energy to catch the birds might think twice about coming near the crocodile.