Why Are Reptiles Important?

reptiles-important Credit: Mint Images - Frans Lanting/Mint Images/Getty Images

Reptiles are important because they fill a vital role in the food web, acting as pollinators and controlling pests. Reptiles are predators to some animals and prey for others, making them a critical component in the ecosystem.

American alligators are an important species because they dig "gator holes" in the areas they inhabit, which contain the only water available during the dry season in the Everglades. These small water spots serve as a refuge for other aquatic animals and a source of water for plants, birds and animals. A closely related reptile, the crocodile, is considered a keystone species because it is highly influential in its habitat.

Aside from being critical to the food webs of many different ecosystems, reptiles may also fulfill many other important roles. For instance, some reptiles act as pollinators. The blue-tailed day gecko pollinates a rare species of plant located on Mauritius. As the only pollinator, the gecko is essential to the plant's survival. Reptiles also serve to keep pest species and rodents under control, which benefits agricultural communities where pests can destroy crops.

Although reptiles are a positive part of the ecosystem, their survival is threatened by humans, habitat loss and climate change. Often, reptiles are put in peril by invasive species that are introduced to an environment and take over.