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Top 10 Animals that are Unsung Heroes to Man

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Every organism on the planet is interconnected. When people think about the ecosystem and nature, many don’t fully grasp the significance of our reliance on other species. Whether we realize it or not, our survival doesn’t rely on our species alone; it relies on millions of other life forms to stay in existence.

 Even the animals we find to be most undesirable or unwanted play a vital role in their ecosystem, much so that a major change in their feeding habits can compromise the food chain and threaten the survival of everything around them.

Thus, the ecological balance needed for a biome to survive depends on all living things in the ecosystem working together in unison.

Sure, humans around the world do their part to protect the environment and give back, but for most animals, every day is Earth Day, and they give Mother Nature a little bit of tender loving care just by performing their natural roles in the environment.

butterflies connect to nature

From the worms digging through the soil to the minute but tangible zooplankton covering the surfaces of lakes and oceanic bodies, animals play a vital role in human wellness and environmental protection. These animals also play a key role in degrading matter and recycling oxygen from carbon dioxide, a cycle we humans need for survival.

By now, you might be familiar with benefits like companionship, and security humans get from our close furry friends such as dogs, cats and other domesticated animals. But lesser-known and acknowledged are animals like bees, who do their bit in pollinating the world’s food supply, or frogs, who have been recognized as environmentally significant for their ability to detect the slightest of environmental disturbances, be it chemical or temperature. As a result, concerns about this organism’s disappearance have heightened in recent years.

Furthermore, the shrinking populations and extinction of certain animal species impact the earth’s ecosystem in ways we cannot begin to fathom. Of course, man poses the greatest challenge to ecological balance through his constant overexploitation of natural resources, and domestication and redistribution of species at will.

To this end, if we consider the declining populations of these underappreciated animals, we’ll value the impact of their activities on the earth’s ecosystem. The continuous dwindling of the earth’s biodiversity is more significant than we imagine because, ultimately, this leads to the disappearance of our species and, at its extreme, can lead to our extermination.

Finally, our use of animals cut across both practical uses such as food and clothing and symbolic uses such as religion, art, and mythology. Domesticated animals may come to the forefront of our minds here, but a lot of the following animals don’t get as much attention as those more ubiquitous animals do.

Let’s take a closer look at the top 10 animal heroes that man will not be able to do without.

#10 Bats

bat

Bats are winged animals of the mammalian order Chiroptera, the world’s second largest order of mammals. They possess adapted forelimbs that serve as wings, making them the only mammals capable of sustained flight.

When we think about bats, for many people, what comes to mind is the image of a vampire in a Hollywood movie. While it may be true that these creatures are somewhat scary-looking, of the 1,200 different bat species, only three sustain on blood.

Even at that, bats are all about saving the earth. And these creatures get a bad rap for the wrong reasons. For example, vampire bats – whose primary source of food is mammalian blood, are endemic to only parts of Central and South America, and when they do feed, their choice of prey includes mostly livestock and reptiles.

Therefore, if you live on the North American subcontinent, you are more likely to see a big brown vesper bat, an insectivore who poses no threat to humans or their livestock. In fact, insectivorous bats make up about 70% of bat species existing today.

Among the underappreciated benefits humans can get from bats is the insect pest control service they offer, by feeding on millions of pest insects yearly. This creature of the night is so adept at slaying insects of all kinds that it can consume up to 1,000 insects per hour. This ravenous appetite which helps control bug populations is why farmers should be appreciative of bats for the different million crops they save each year.

Another type of assistance humans get from insectivorous bats is their control of disease vectors such as mosquitoes, which causes malaria and dengue fever. In tropical climes, species of bats have developed such a palate for these vectors that a colony of bats can consume nearly 14,000kg of mosquitoes in a single night.

Similarly, nectar-eating bats serve as pollinators for over 500 ecologically significant plant species. Bats travel long distances, as most of these plants cannot produce seeds without pollination. When bats feed on nectar, they inadvertently pick up pollen and transfer it as the feed.

Also, droppings from fruit and insects feeding bats species known as Guano play an equally significant ecological role. Guano is a highly effective fertilizer popular for its exceptionally high nitrogen, phosphate and potassium content by farmers. It has all the essential ingredients for plant growth. And in years past, soldiers use it in producing gunpowder and explosive materials.

The significance of bats doesn’t end there. Human medicine is also learning a lot from bats.

Bat saliva is of scientific importance for its haemolytic properties and ability to prevent blood clots. This can be helpful for stroke and heart attack victims. Besides, bats’ ability to echolocate is also being studied to see how this can help human blindness. All these benefits are why this creature of many folklore comes in first on our top 10 animals list.

#9 Frogs

tree frog highest jumping animals

Frogs play a significant role in ecosystems around the world. With approximately 6,000 species worldwide, they form a fundamental part of the food chain. They prevent disease transmission by feeding on disease-carrying insects, and their tadpoles help keep waterways clean.

This amphibian population has seen an unprecedented decline in recent years; since 1980, up to 200 species have gone extinct. Although a couple of them are poisonous, a larger faction serves the benefits of humans.

Frogs don’t just spend their days croaking and hopping from one lily pad to another. Though not as effective as bats, frogs spend a good chunk of their day consuming bugs, flies, and other insect pests.

Likewise, frogs act as biological indicators of the suitability of their ecosystems. They are able to do this due to their porous and permeable skin, which allows substances found in their environment to diffuse easily into their skin and fatty tissues.

Since they can thrive in both aquatic and terrestrial habitats and are the first group of animals to react to imminent biological danger, they can indicate contamination in both types of habitats surrounding them.

With this in mind, when frogs start to suffer or decline in a particular ecosystem, it is often a sign of a serious ecological dilemma that has gone unnoticed.

Additionally, in medicine, frogs serve a far more significant role than undergoing dissection for high school experiments by humans. Some species of frogs are being studied for their ability to regenerate limbs and how researchers can apply that to improve human welfare.

#8 Birds

Animals in Connecticut robin

Could you imagine a world without the visual and acoustic beauty of birds? The benefits we gain from these animals aren’t just cultural. Birds also play an integral role in the functioning of the world’s ecosystems in ways that directly impact human health, food production, and world economies.

The list of bird species is virtually endless, and they have varying abilities that help the ecosystem thrive. The ecological roles they play in keeping nature systems in balance include insect pest control, plant pollination, seed dispersal, and nutrient cycling.

Also, some birds help in soil aeration by digging the soil with their claws and beaks. That’s when in search of food, such as worms, ants and termites. Birds also act as bio indicators and can be strong predictors of diseases prior to epidemic outbreaks.

#7 Bees

Bee

Number 7 on the list of Animals that are Unsung Heroes to Man. Bees are one of the most significant species in our ecosystem. They live in every continent on earth except Antarctica. While honeybees may be famous for the delectable honey they produce. And the work they do to help flowers grow, bees do so much more than that.

Bees are the one specie that almost every other animal species on the planet rely upon. The gravity of this statement may sound far-fetched, but it is true. This is because without bees flying around and pollinating plants, a large number of plants would not grow.

Without bees, a lot of popular fruits and crops such as coffee, watermelon, peaches, raspberries, and almonds would be in short supply all over the world.

Many of the earth’s plants – about 30% of domesticated crops and 90% of wild plants, depend on these little heroes to grow. Subsequently, a reduction in bee populations in a particular area would result in food shortage. Or even famine at its highest point of decline.

Furthermore, this Hymenoptera insect makes our top 10 animals list because apart from being great pollinators and providing yummy honey, they have also been trained to locate active landmines in abandoned sites, and they can sense when toxic chemicals have been released into an area.

Bees are the earth’s most important pollinators, ahead of bats and birds. Unfortunately, the overexploitation of land for agricultural purposes has decimated a lot of wild plant species that bees thrive on their nectar, causing a decline in the population of these insects.

With this in mind, the next time you see bees in your garden, rather than get annoyed and try to swat them to death, you can embrace them by limiting your use of pesticides and creating a welcoming environment for these pollinators. Just be sure to close your windows while at it.

#6 Plankton

plankton

Planktons are a diverse group of microscopic organisms that live in water that cannot move against the water current. This is why they are ocean drifters, although some species do grow old enough to propel themselves. Plankton is of two types; phytoplankton [which are plants because they are able to use sunlight and chlorophyll to generate their energy], and zooplankton [which are small marine animals that feed on phytoplankton and tiny marine organisms]. 

The latter category is our focus here.

Zooplankton, though minuscule and microscopic, play a vital role in marine ecosystems. Also, because the aquatic food chain relies so heavily on plankton, the survival of these animals is essential for the continuation of even the biggest marine predators.

Without plankton, there would be half the oxygen in the world there is today. They produce this oxygen by absorbing much of the carbon dioxide present on the surface of the oceans. By so doing reducing the greenhouse effect. They also help replenish the nutrient cycle by breaking down dead organic matter in oceans.

#5 Beavers

beaver

These meticulous rodents are widely regarded as “nature’s engineers.” That’s because they create, modify, and maintain habitats and ecosystems. This consequently has a larger impact on the diversity of any biome.

Beavers are recognized as keystone species. Which means their survival has a disproportionately large influence on the species around their relative environment.

For instance, due to their constant gnawing and damming, a family of beavers can create habitats for many other species, including birds, amphibians, and smaller mammals. This way, beavers contribute to biodiversity in a way that cannot be overstated.

Similarly, as ecosystem engineers, beavers create wetland swamps by damming. This, in turn, creates a thriving environment for several fish and reptilian wildlife. The lodges they build also provide homes for small animals such as river otters, minks and muskrats.

Additionally, the negative effects of climate change are alleviated by beavers in wetland habitats such as the Everglades. They help these habitats adapt to climate change by storing water, reducing erosion and flooding and improving hydrological conditions.

Beavers have come a long way from their old reputation as pests. Beavers were almost hunted to extinction in the 1800s. Thanks to environmental sensitization and increased regulation, these animals have been able to build back their numbers. And they are being reintroduced into parts of nature where they are much needed.

#4 Ants

ants

Over 12,000 species of ants are known to man. And they all play a key role in the ecosystems they are found. Ants are significant to the earth’s topsoil. This small but mighty insects keep our ecosystem in a state of balance and help clean up rainforests.

Most of their unacknowledged feats come from the work they do while digging their tunnels. During this intense and organized exercise, they help aerate the soil, decompose dead matter, and recycle nutrients. In doing so, they help provide healthy soil for optimal plant growth.

Ants are also ecologically significant because their activities limit the need for farm practices such as pesticide or fertilizer application. Similarly, seed-harvesting ants disperse seeds along their nutrient-rich nesting grounds, where plants can safely grow free of indulgence from herbivores.

Being mostly considered pests themselves, you’d be surprised at how much they do to control pests. Many ant species enjoy delicacies of insects peskier than them, such as flea, fly, and bug eggs, larvae, or nymphs.

#3 Primates

Gorilla in Virunga National Park

Our mammalian cousins are some of the most vital animals going unsung on the planet. Hence, we see it fit that they make our top 10 animals list. Primates are our closest relative in nature. And are a keystone species in any clime or biome in which they live.

Moreover, their importance does not only lie in kinship or studying our origins. Known as “forest gardeners, ” they are ecologically vital, particularly in tropical rainforests. Where their everyday actions help spread seeds as they feed on nuts and fruits. In addition, they fertilize the soil as they pass wastes.

With over 200 species of primates in the world – humans one of them- the trees that grow from the activities of these mammals are important in recycling the earth’s atmosphere. Without these trees, the 50% of atmospheric oxygen from the world’s rainforest will greatly reduce.

In like manner, these trees also influence global rainfall patterns and climate change. Unfortunately, one in two species of this our evolutionary kin is under extinction threat. With this in mind, we should give more concern to the survival of this order.

#2 Worms

worm

Number 2 in the list of Animals that are Unsung Heroes to Man. Worms are several distantly related animals typically having a long cylindrical tube-like body. They have no limbs and no sense of sight. Earthworms play a variety of significant roles in ecosystems they habit. Their feeding and burrowing activities add organic residues and enrich the soil profile. Thereby enhancing humus formation, decomposition, nutrient cycling, and soil structure.

 In the same vein, earthworm burrows persist in the soil as macro pores. This action provide better channels for root growth, water penetration, and gaseous exchange. Although these slimy creatures may lack the appeal of more familiar animals, their contribution to our world is undeniable.

In addition, scientists state that lands used for agriculture output a 25 to 30% increase in crop yield. This stat is for when worms are present in contrast to when they are not. Also, worms help the climate by facilitating and accelerating carbon sequestration through the incorporation of organic materials into the soil and the formation of soil macroaggregates.

Therefore, when next you encounter a worm on a footpath, perhaps you’ll be kind enough to our underground ally. Think about the army of worms working tirelessly for us below ground.

#1 Fungi

fungi

Though not technically animals, they are not technically plants either. Perhaps this distinction, or lack thereof, is the reason these eukaryotes don’t get their fair share of recognition. This is why we are bringing them to the forefront. With this notable mention in our top 10 animal unsung heroes list.

Having their own kingdom, fungi are vital to human life on many levels.

Firstly, they influence the well-being of our population. That’s because they are a foundational part of the nutrient cycle in the earth’s ecosystem. Similarly, they help control the population of pests that threaten to damage crops and wildlife.

In plants, the mycorrhizal relationship fungi form with plant roots is essential for the aeration and productivity of many plant species. Without these fungi in their root systems, 80% of trees and plants would not survive.

Also, fungi are nature’s decomposers. And they decompose dead plants and animals and recycle them into energy for building another generation. Moreover, fungi such as mushrooms are delicacies and feature prominently in the human diet.

Not only that, in the field of medicine, fungi have been responsible for significant medical breakthroughs, chief of which is the widely popular penicillin antibiotic, gotten from mould fungi of the specie penicillium.

More recently, fungi are being tested for their use as biological pest control agents. And this research has seen tremendous results.

These reasons are why fungi, although not considered an animal, deserve a spot on any list of top 10 animals underappreciated by our kind.

Summary on Animals that are Unsung Heroes to Man

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Many species of the top 10 animals pointed out above are in danger due to deforestation, habitat loss, pollution, parasite, diseases, climate change, and a host of other commercial and environmental concerns. Acknowledging the importance of these animals can benefit them and our environment. You can help reduce the effects of human activities on them by being aware of 

human impact on their ecosystems, using eco-friendly brands and products and making conscientious decisions regarding their survival.

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