Rats, bats, sharks, bees. These animals don't seem particularly cute, and in fact, many of them are mistakenly believed to be useful only for the purposes of terrifying people. Well, we are here to prove those misconceptions wrong.
The animals below all play roles in the survival of the human species. Scroll through the list below to see how they can be both quite adorable (or pretty), AND help the environment in ways you may have never imagined...
Sharks help us breathe. They may be known as the killer of the sea, but there's a good reason for that. By eating old and sick fish, they are keeping the ecosystem healthy and ultimately controlling algae buildup in the ocean. If sharks weren't around, scientists predict algae levels would spike, sending oxygen levels off the charts and affecting all life on earth. While sharks have been known to kill humans, research has shown that humans are much more deadly to sharks than they are to us. We kill an estimated 11,417 of them an hour through "unsustainable finning."
"Oh, hai! If I bite you, it's not personal."
Rats sniff out bombs. These subway critters actually have a pretty good sense of smell. It's so good that in Mozambique, they have been used to eliminate over 6 million square miles of hidden explosives. (Photo via Flickr: liftarn)
"Get me out of this jar. I won't climb on your foot, promise."
Snakes eat those rats. Although rats can be helpful, they also spread a lot of bad diseases. Thankfully, snakes keep them and other vermin in check by eating them for dinner. (Photo via Flickr: lunaspin)
"Sir Hiss, reporting for duty."
Rottweilers protect people. While the Rottweiler is controversially targeted as an aggressive breed, its defensiveness has been known to come in handy. In England in 2010, a Rottweiler named Jake saved a woman who was being raped in a park by attacking the perpetrator. (Photo via Flickr: Olga Martschitsch)
"Don't forget, this is MY ball. But I'll share."
Squirrels give us trees. These little rodents are some of the biggest hoarders ever. They love to gather nuts. They gather so many nuts that they often forget where they leave those nuts. Those nuts then grow into beautiful trees. Silly squirrels, we thank you.
"I was recently electrocuted in a Christmas light-chewing accident."
Frogs let us know if our water is clean. When frogs aren't doing too well, we likely won't be either. If they're sick, it's a sure sign that water quality is not at its best. (Photo via Flickr:doug88888)
"How you doin'? Nobody said we weren't slimy."
Spiders are good for eating. Well... maybe not so much for us. But they are delicious to fish and birds. These animals eat spiders so much that if spiders didn't exist, they may not either. Live spiders also like to feast on a lot of the insects we find annoying, like mosquitos, flies and cockroaches. So next time you see a spider, don't scream... thank him or her. (Photo via Flickr: giovzaid85)
"I see you lookin' at me. No squishing!"
Seals help us study climate change. While seals can be known to be a little feisty (especially to poor Buster in "Arrested Development"), their deep swimming skills help us out. Researchers at UC-Santa Cruz attached sensors to them to better figure out ocean circulation patterns. In short, seals may help save our world. (Photo via Flickr: Ian-S)
"What? I'm on break."
Bees give us avocados. There's sweetness in a bee's sting. While they produce delicious honey, bees support 80 percent of human crop growth. That means that without them, you would lose a lot of things you love, like strawberries, apples, peaches and nuts, just to name a few. Also, since cows need bees to pollinate the crops they eat, we might lose hamburgers too. (Photo via Flickr: James Bowe)
"You know I die when I sting you, right?"
Bats save stroke victims. They may be creepy, but they can save lives. Bats' saliva has been used to dissolve blood clots in stroke victims' brains. And their guano (feces) is a great natural fertilizer. (Yes, that is a bat in the picture... a cute little baby bat.) (Photo via Flickr: kqedquest)
"I bat you're about to run away from me."
Beetles help regulate the ecosystem. Sure, beetles get a bad wrap for being gross, but let's not forget about the pretty ladybug. Beetles play a very important part in our lives by eating other insects and facilitating biodiversity. Dung beetles aid in decomposition by feeding on animal waste and breaking down corpses. (Photo via Flickr: swg101)
"Don't worry, I don't eat poop."
Beavers prevent floods. Yes, they're loud, silly-looking and can be dangerous, but they are so helpful. The dams they build help to prevent natural flooding, droughts and forest fires. (Photo via Flickr: Tancread)
"Is there something stuck in my toof?"
Robotic fish keep our water clean. Okay, so these may not actually be "living," but they sure are beautiful (and somewhat creepy). The best part is that they are a safe and harmless solution to monitoring polluted water, ensuring that ocean life is healthy and our drinking water is fresh.