03/13/2012 11:51 am ET

5 Amazing Animal Heroes Through History

By Jessica Kennison For

YouTube is inundated with videos of dancing dogs and yarn-throwing cats. Cute animal forwards are fixtures in office email chains all over the world. While watching puppies roll around gives us pleasure, animals do more than just play pretty -- they are war heroes and lifeguards and bodyguards and 911 messengers.

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Dr. Elise Nowbahari, of the University of Paris, says non-human animal rescue behavior is far more common than people think.

Nowbahari’s research, published in the January 2010 issue of Communicative and Integrative Biology, suggests that animals such as monkeys, dolphins, fruit bats and even ants have an instinct that causes them to put themselves in harm’s way for another animal without the promise of any direct reward.

Monkeys will drive away an attacker from a vulnerable female or infant and fruit bats help other fruit bats give birth.

Here are five examples of animals using their rescue instincts to help human beings in distress. For five more, click here.

5 Animal Heroes Through History