Obviously all animals are important and have value as a living creature.
But, this is a list of animals that are of particular importance because of the ways in which they help humans survive, and keep the environment in balance.
This list is important because more animal species are become endangered, threatened with extinction, or becoming totally extinct, by the day.
Summary – How The Most Important Animals Help Humans Survive & Live
Animals and microorganisms help humans survive and live both directly, and indirectly.
They help the environment and ecosystems to stay health and thrive, but they also provide direct benefits to humans in the form of products, services, or the activities they perform.
Animals can also studied for various reasons, with one example being to get an idea of environmental trends and activity.
So, there are plenty of evidence based reasons to keep animal population healthy and thriving … the environment, animals and humans are all interconnected and rely on each other.
Of the list below, it’s said plankton, bats, primates, fungi and bees might be most important. Of that shortened list, bees are probably most important (we rely on them for food and agriculture), followed by phytoplankton.
The list below is only a selection of some of the main animals and organisms helping humans, but there is likely a much longer list in reality.
Bees carry out pollination, which allows plants, flowers, and trees (that humans depend on) to survive and grow.
They also help us make honey.
Consider this stat about bees:
- Insect pollination supports one-third of human crop growth, and of this number, honeybees are responsible for 80 percent. What sort of crops? Apples, nuts, avocados, soybeans, asparagus, broccoli, cucumbers, strawberries and peaches (findingdulcinea.com)
- … livestock also depend on bees to pollinate the food they eat (findingdulcinea.com)
- … bees pollinate 70 of the around 100 crop species that feed 90% of the world (bbc.com)
Losing bees not only means humans and animals might starve, but it has a huge financial impact too:
- The total worldwide economic value of pollination has been estimated to be around £130 billion a year, and that is without the honey and wax that bees also produce.
- bees pollinate more than $15 billion-worth of crops in the US every year, including apples, berries, cucumbers, and almonds
But, it should be noted that in the US in particular – the long term population numbers of honey bees are not thought to be major concern yet.
Plankton (phytoplankton and zooplankton)
Plankton are microscopic organisms that can be found in the ocean, and they can actually be classified as plants and animals.
Plankton absorb energy from the Sun and nutrients from the water
They are responsible for around half of the world’s oxygen production via photosynthesis. The other half comes from on land seaweed, plant life and trees.
Plankton might be threatened in the long term if the world’s oceans keep warming. This could limit the amount of breathable air we have available in the future.
Primates are important ecologically in tropical and sub-tropical climates.
They disperse seeds and pollen via eating, defecating and other activities.
They help keep rainforests healthy, diverse and thriving, and this is important because tropical rainforests can influence global rainfall patterns.
Butterflies serve two main benefits to humans:
- they pollinate (good for trees, plants etc.)
- but, they can also be studied to indicate to scientists what is going on in the environment and with the climate. Butterflies tend to migrate to other areas when temperatures are rising, and migrate away to more mild climates. So, butterflies help scientists with their study
Bats are one of the largest consumers of insects – so they help us control insect populations
Insects have the ability to decimate crops and plant life if not controlled – especially pest type insects.
They can also help control mosquito populations in areas where malaria and other mosquito borne diseases and viruses might be a problems.
Deforestation and habitat loss are a threat to bats right now.
Nectar eating bats can also help pollinate, and, bat droppings help in seed dispersal and helping plants grow and stay diverse.
The number of services that dogs provide to us forms a long list.
We have service dogs that work for the police and military, guide dogs that help the blind, assistance dogs that help people with disabilities, dogs trained to sense seizures + more.
Dogs are also shown in numerous studies to be beneficial to our mental health, and can even support people with mental health issues like depression, anxiety and more. They can also help combat the effects of loneliness.
African Giant Rats
Humans have really manufactured the need for help from African Giant Rats ourselves through our actions.
African Giant pouched rats help sniff out landmines.
Dogs were previously used, but there were issues with cost and transport.
- [since] 1997, these [rats] have helped clear 13,200 mines from minefields in Tanzania, Mozambique, Angola, and, most recently, in Cambodia.
Earthworms & Ants
Both these animals dig tunnels in and naturally till the soil – helping air and water (and nutrients) to get into the soil and also near plant roots.
They also help decompose organic matter – which is good for the nutrient supply of soil.
Worms in particular are fantastic for composting.
Ants also participate in seed harvesting and carrying, and kill off pest species like the Fly, flea, and bed bug eggs, larvae, or nymphs
Like butterflies – frogs can be an indicator (called a bio-indicator) of the health of the ecosystem, or and indicator of what is happening in that ecosystem.
Frogs absorb environmental substances through their skin.
Changes to a frog’s skin can indicate what is happening in that environment, or it can also indicate toxic substances in the environment if frogs are having health problems or dying.
Fungi are more closely related to animals than plants (so we will list them as animals).
Fungi serve two main huge benefits:
- helping plants to obtain the nutrients and water from the soil around them – Rather than directly sucking these essential building blocks of life into its roots, plants have to rely upon the fungi to gather it for them from the surrounding soil (mycorrhiza fungi do this)
- being a main nutrient recycler by helping decompose dead plants and animals into nutrients
Fish and sea dwelling animals have two significant roles in society:
- seafood supplies a large portion of the world’s food supply
- fish excrement can significantly reduce the acidity of oceans – which helps to reduce the impact of climate change
Birds do a number of things for the environment and ecosystem:
- insect control, forest decomposition, nutrient recycling, pollination and seed sowing, and soil aeration.
Animals Used For Food
In a number of ways, the industrial mass scale farming of livestock has a number of cons, especially specific livestock like beef in some countries.
But, sometimes animals are used for food for specific uses, such as:
- People in low income or lesser developed regions of the world where animal meat is their only source of survival or income
- People in isolated regions where animal meat is the only practical food
- Indigenous traditions or beliefs which lead to the use of animal meat
- Religious beliefs which leads to the use of animal meat in some instances
- Some people are unable to eat a vegetarian or vegan based diet because of practical or logistical reasons
- Some people have health deficiencies or health conditions which require them to simplify their diet, and animal meat might be one of the only foods that helps keeps them healthy (some people eat a carnivore diet for example to help with depression, autoimmune disorders, and so on)
- Sometimes the land/soil, or external conditions such as weather and rainfall are not suitable wholly or partially for crop farming, and animal farming is required
Animals used for food and meat being beneficial depends on several variables – where and how it’s done, who is consuming the food, and so on.
Animals Used To Make Products & Medicine
Another controversial subject that can be uncomfortable to talk about.
We use animals directly, or their by products, to make many of the products and medicine we use today.
Examples of this are
- cows used for leather, silkworms used for silk, sheep used for wool (using animals for clothes and textiles)
- snakes used for anti-venom, and a range of animals for a range of drugs and medicine.
Animals Used For Income
Technically, animals used in agriculture and products are used for income.
But, directly, animals are used for income in tourism, movies, entertainment and more.
There are of course exploitations of using animals for income, but there are also ethical ways to make money from animals such as ethical elephant sanctuaries in South East Asia, or ethical reserves for safaris in Africa.
These animals can support people’s entire livelihoods.
Animals Used For Testing
Yet another controversial subject that can be uncomfortable to talk about.
Every year, 26 million animals are used in the US alone for animal testing (animal-testing.procon.org).
Majority of people don’t want to see animals harmed or made to suffer.
But, even though animals have been tested on for non essential consumer products such as cosmetics, they have also been used for testing that has claimed to have saved the lives of humans.
Animal testing has been used in the past to help discover insulin, test the polio vaccine, and in major advances in understanding and treating conditions such as breast cancer, brain injury, childhood leukemia, cystic fibrosis, malaria, multiple sclerosis, tuberculosis, and many others (animal-testing.procon.org).
We’ve even sent animals into space in the past, and some of the leaders of society are talking about how space exploration is going to be so important to our future if we exhaust living conditions and resources on Earth.
The Importance Of Plant Life & Trees To Animals & Humans
Humans and animals wouldn’t be able to survive without certain plant life and trees – you can read more about the most important plant life and trees in this guide.