Most Important Animals To Humans (& Ecosystems)

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 to consider because of how some animal species might be becoming endangered, threatened with extinction, or becoming totally extinct.


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 healthy and to thrive, but they also provide direct benefits to humans in the form of products, services, or the activities they perform.

Animals can also be studied for various reasons, with one example being to get an idea of environmental trends and activity.

So, there are plenty of evidence that supports keeping animal populations 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 (who produce about half of the world’s oxygen).

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.


*Note – some animals can also be highly damaging to the environment and to other species (like invasive, pest, overpopulated and predator species).

The numbers of these animal species may need to be controlled out in the wild.

For example, Nutria in Louisiana, Mink in Scotland, and Rabbits in Australia.

There might be many more examples too (


The full list below is:


Plankton (phytoplankton and zooplankton)





African Giant Rats

Earthworms & Ants





Animals Used For Food

Animals Used To Make Products & Medicine

Animals Used For Income (& To Support Local Communities)

Animals Used For Testing



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 these stats 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 (

… livestock also depend on bees to pollinate the food they eat (

… bees pollinate 70 of the around 100 crop species that feed 90% of the world (


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:

1. They pollinate (good for trees, plants etc.)

2. 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.



There’s a number of different types of service and assistance dogs.

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 also benefit humans in other ways.

Numerous studies show dogs are 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 (even lab grown meat has an environmental and ethical footprint at the moment).

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.


One example:

Muslim families [in some parts of the world] will raise a cow or three not just for the milk, but also the meat, which is important for their nutrition, income, and religious celebrations



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 (& To Support Local Communities)

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.


A few examples:

… exotic [animal] skins are provided to luxury [leather] companies by indigenous communities all over the world

… [these communities] are motivated to conserve and protect habitats and wild populations … because of the income luxury skins provides. And when that income goes away, they might be forced through their poverty to take up other common forms of rural income, such as logging, slash-and-burn farming, or gold mining

[Another example are Pirarucu fish … [they] are one of the largest freshwater fish on the planet, and they are a crucial piece to Brazilian ecosystems and communities … these fish are used for both food, income, to create employment, and the skin used for leather bags is natural and biodegradable]

Read more about the potentially responsible and sustainable use of animals at


There’s also instances in South Africa and Kenya of the control of an overpopulated species like the Kudu, that helps support local communities in various ways


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 (

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 (

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.



















1 thought on “Most Important Animals To Humans (& Ecosystems)”

  1. I personally don’t agree with animals used for food help humans and the environment to survive and live. Science based facts are livestock generates 14.5% global greenhouse gas emissions, greater than transport. It uses 70% of agricultural land and is the leading cause of deforestation, wildlife loss and water pollution. Eating meat and dairy is also a leading cause of certain cancers, heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
    The statement you make ‘a controversial subject that can be uncomfortable to talk about’ is disappointing coming from such an educational and informative website. It is imperative for the health of not just ourselves but most importantly our planet that the issue of using animals for food is talked about openly and immediately.


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