Written by Dylan Deppe. Media by Jon Friedman
Did you know that bats always turn left when flying out of a cave? Or that koalas have fingerprints that look almost exactly like a human’s? How about the fact that giraffes have no vocal chords? There are a lot of interesting facts about animals that might get you a lot of money on a game like Jeopardy. Considering that there are approximately 1.5 million species of animals, you may have assumed that. But why is that important?
Maybe you don’t see or hear from them that much, but there are a lot of animals out there on planet Earth, and they can vary in appearance. Sure, people like the fluffy ones with big eyes that sometimes act like us and all the other ones are bad. Except, fine, and no. Animals have been around for a long time. According to the University of Waikato, animals have existed for approximately 600 million years. That’s a long time, and as I already pointed out, there are a lot of different kinds of animals. They can’t all be the same.
As for animals that you might think are spooky, just hitting some textbooks can alleviate you of many of your trepidations. Scared of snakes? There are only approximately 15 species of venomous snakes in all of North America (that also includes Canada and Mexico). Scared of spiders? Only 30 species have ever resulted in the death of humans worldwide. On top of that, hospitals in areas where potentially dangerous species live carry anti-venom, and on top of that, snakes and spiders aren’t out to get you.
SideQuest drummer Jesse Taylor said about snakes, “There were a lot of snakes around where I lived (in Michigan), and my brother and I used to go around catching them. My mom doesn’t like snakes, but I think they’re cool.” So, remember, you won’t ever get mugged by a group of creepy-crawlers in a dark alley somewhere after watching a movie or trying a shortcut.
Another cool fact about animals is that there are new species being discovered every year. Don’t get too excited, though. Science isn’t always as fun as media may portray; many of the new species are extinct dinosaurs, tiny things like the water bear, or animals we already know about, but scientists decide are too genetically different to be what we originally thought.
But, sometimes something really interesting happens. National Geographic published an article about how some dwarf crocodiles may be evolving into a new species. The how and why questions of these crocodiles going into caves are really fascinating, and the animals just look really cool. Nat Geo also has an abundance of interesting articles about other things animal-related. I especially enjoy the one about a new shark species.
Animals can also work directly with people to do things we’re interested in. For example, cattle and horses have been used for ages in ancient times to help mend crops, and to help with transportation. While we mainly keep them around for their company today, dogs and cats used to serve very pragmatic functions to older cultures. Even today, an animal companion can be more than just a friend. Many people need seeing-eye dogs, hearing dogs, as well as service and therapy animals, for a variety of disabilities. Dogs, cats, pigs, goats, and donkeys have all been known to be used for service, and any animal that breathes through the air is basically suited to be a person’s therapy animal, although, usually are dogs, cats, horses, guinea pigs, rabbits, snakes, lizards, or small tortoises.
But there’s a problem. Many species of animals are critically endangered, and many have already gone extinct. Endangered means getting close to being extinct, and extinct means there aren’t any left. Why is that a problem? Because that negatively affects the biosphere, which is the culmination of all the environments on Earth. If you hurt a species, you’re almost definitely hurting the environment, which hurts all the other environments, which is bad for the planet that we live on. What’s worse is that many animals are being driven to extinction by a black-market trade based on fake beliefs that eating their horns, fins, and such will cure cancer, or whatever.
There are a lot of animals, they all do different things, and they can make great companions. Learning about animals can lead to learning more about our planet, as well as ourselves. Sometimes they might freak us out by how they look or act, but just like some people who we view the same way, animals, no matter how strange, serve a purpose on our nice little globe. Animals are cool because planet Earth is cool.