5 Ways Amphibians and Reptiles Impact Our Planet

As humans, we are fortunate to be living on this planet with such a wide variety of flora and fauna. It is almost hard to believe that we have barely even scratched the surface of the number of plant and animal species that exist on the planet! Scientists are constantly discovering new plant and animal species in regions all around the world.

Because of the vast number of species we have encountered, it is oftentimes wondered what each of their significance is on Earth. Reptiles and amphibians are great examples of animals that are often misunderstood. Ophidiophobia, or the fear of snakes, is one of the most prevalent phobias among adults with about one-third of U.S. adults admitting to fearing snakes. Regardless of your feelings toward these legless creatures, one thing is certain – all reptiles and amphibians, including snakes, play a very important role in our life.

1. Ecosystem

Reptiles and amphibians hold a significant role in the ecosystem. Our ecosystem is made up of a web of food chains that all rely on each other for existence. As both predator and prey species, reptiles and amphibians are needed for the sustenance of the food webs. For example, frogs eat small insects and other small invertebrates. Lizards, snakes, birds, small mammals and even humans in turn prey upon frogs. Additionally, many reptiles and amphibians play a large role in the survival of other species. Alligators are known to create “gator holes,” which are areas of standing water. During hot, dry months, these “gator holes” provide a refuge for many fish, turtles, and other aquatic organisms as well as a drinking hole for birds and mammals.

2. Farming

Following their role in the ecosystem, reptiles and amphibians have long been welcomed on farms when there is an infestation of insects that may destroy crops. It can be a more natural way to reduce bugs and insects without using harmful pesticides. Frogs and other amphibians will eat many of the insects that would otherwise become destructive and overpopulate the farm.

3. Pollination

Reptiles and amphibians also play a role when it comes to the pollination of certain plant species. As they move around the plants, they pick up pollen grain and then transfer it to other plants for pollination. For instance, on the Island of Mauritius the blue-tailed gecko is the only pollinator crucial to the survival of the rare plant Trochetia blackburniana.

4. Temperature Indicator

Amphibians and reptiles are extremely sensitive to temperature. This sensitivity is one reason why scientists study them to determine changes in a certain environment. If the amphibians and reptiles reduce in numbers in a certain region, it can be an early sign of temperature and climate change. Because reptiles and amphibians can be found on land and in the water, they are often studied in both environments. One such species is the lizard. The mating and reproduction of lizards are dependent on the weather and typically take place during a small window of time when the temperatures are just right. A change in the climate can cause a decrease in hatchlings. Turtles and alligators are also great indicators because of their temperature-sensitive sex determination. A cold season will produce mostly males while warmer temperatures produce mostly females.

5. Medicine

The practice of using reptiles and amphibians for medicine is ancient. Turtles, for instance, are a delicacy and play a role in traditional Chinese medicine. And, the first use of snake venom as a vaccine dates back to AD 60 by the Psyll Tribe. Since then, medical researchers have come along way with discovering many powerful uses for it. There are two broad classes of snake venoms that are each used to heal different ailments: hemotoxic and neurotoxic. The hemotoxic venom effects the blood and has been used to treat high blood pressure, minor heart attacks and chest pain. It is also believed that cures to some forms of cancer may one day be from reptiles and amphibians.

It is extremely important to take care of reptiles and amphibians. Armenia is one of the world's biodiversity hotspots, but its reptiles and amphibians are beginning to vanish. Eleven species could soon be extinct without human intervention. The Saint Louis Zoo has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise $40,000 by Dec. 1 in order to establish a conservation breeding center in Armenia and save these vital species. You can help by donating at https://gladitood.com/projects/armenia.