How Are Reptiles Important to Humans?

By MelissaBielawski
Lizard image by David G from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>

Reptiles represent some of the oldest living species on the planet, having existed in many different forms for millions of years. Known for being cold-blooded creatures whose bodies are covered in dry, horny scales, reptiles typically are not considered to be of great significance, but the reptile species is actually quite important to human beings in several different ways.

History

According to New World Encyclopedia, for more than 230 million years reptiles were considered to be the strongest and most dominant of all land animals. The process of evolution drastically altered the reptile species. Despite these changes, there are still more than 7,500 forms of reptiles found throughout the world today. Reptiles do not create and sustain enough internal heat to retain a stable body temperature, and they rely on external heat, typically from the sun, in order to survive. This lack of warmth throughout the body allows reptiles to exist on much less food than a typical mammal would require. Despite their small size, reptiles are actually quite beneficial to people.

Ecological Significance

According to Cofrin Center for Biodiversity, reptiles play a vital role in the proper functioning of the world's ecosystem. Most reptiles are natural carnivores, and in this capacity they are able to eliminate many creatures that people consider to be undesirable. According to Reptiles and Amphibians, in many parts of the world snakes and lizards are actually welcomed by farmers onto their land because they act as a natural eliminator for insects, crabs and other animals who pose a threat to their crops. Larger snakes also aid in the reduction of rodents. Without reptiles such as snakes and lizards, many crops and food sources in the world would be left defenseless against smaller, hungry predators.

Economical Impact

The necessity of reptile skin in the creation of leather goods makes these creatures of significant importance to our economy. According to Reptiles and Amphibians, the skins of both alligators and crocodiles are used to produce many forms of leather goods, including shoes, pocketbooks, belts and boots. Snake skins are also used in great frequency to create similar products, such as belts and handbags. The monies generated from the sale of these leather products have a significant positive effect on the overall economy.

Food Source

For thousands of year, reptiles have been considered an important food source in many parts of the world. Sea turtles, lizards, alligators and snakes are commonly found in many diets. According to Spingerlink, many developing countries rely on reptiles as a key source of protein. The consumption of turtle and alligator is so prevalent throughout the world, including in the United States, that many local populations of these creatures have actually disappeared.

Recreational Hobby

Traditionally, the reptile is not recognized as a more common variety of pet, yet animals such as snakes, lizards and turtles are the pet of choice for thousands of people. According to King Snake, while some forms of reptiles require a great deal of care and maintenance, there are many types, including corn snakes, the California king snake, ball pythons, leopard geckos and the bearded dragon, that are relatively easy to keep and are known for their docile temperament. For those reptile owners who are well-informed regarding the needs and lifestyle of their pet, owning a reptile can prove to be an exciting and rewarding experience, and reptile care is a hobby for millions of people.