Why do Ticks Even Exist?!
What purpose to ticks serve? Ticks are known for being nasty pests and bloodsuckers, many of which has the potential to transmit tick-borne diseases that can cause serious harm to our health and wellbeing. Naturally, people usually do their best to cast these parasites off their yards and territory (and with good reason). However, there are actually several reasons why these tiny (and gross) creatures can actually be good for Mother Nature — and are even somewhat useful! I know what you’re thinking… NO WAY! Well hang tight as we discover the answer to the question: Why Do Ticks Exist?!
What are ticks actually good for?? You’ve probably asked yourself this question, and most likely didn’t come up with an answer. Indeed, what good can these blood-sucking parasites do to people or other living beings on this planet except for transmitting diseases and invading our yards every year to cause more troubles?
However, there are several quite important benefits that ticks provide our ecosystem, that most of us have probably not thought very much about! And believe us, you’ll be surprised to learn that ticks are, in fact, very important for the ecosystem!
- They serve as food for other animals.
- The population of ticks can tell the scientists how the ecosystem is doing in general.
- They take part in providing the diversity of life on our planet since ticks carry various microorganisms and bacteria.
- Ticks help to keep animal populations in check.
A Bonus Reason…
So now that we’ve gotten the ‘real’ reasons out of the way, we can’t forget about one of the other reasons why ticks exist… Do you realize how many people are employed just to combat them? Everybody from the manufacturers of pesticides and repellents, to retailers, to medical labs, and even nature centers. All of whom are out there to help fight the onslaught of a never ending tick invasion! Just saying! 😉
They Provide Food for Other Animals
Ticks may feed on a lot of mammals (and birds, livestock, rodents and even reptiles), but they often become a meal themselves. In fact, many animals feed on ticks, including a number of reptiles, birds (especially wild turkeys and guinea fowl) and opossums. In some regions, homeowners have turned to buying guinea fowl to help reduce tick populations and protect other farm animals from becoming hosts — though this solution is not as effective as targeting the primary vector of disease: white footed mice.
They Tell Scientists How Ecosystems are Doing
Scientists monitor tick populations all over the globe in order to find out how certain ecosystems are doing. Where ticks are abundant, populations of smaller mammals, such as rodents, squirrels and rabbits may also be high. A low tick population can also indicate that predators of smaller animals may be getting out of control. Everything is interconnected in the animal kingdom; and even though most people hate them, ticks do in fact play an important role in helping to strike the right balance in the ecosystems they live in.
A study of timber rattlesnake populations in the eastern United States, for example, found that healthy snakes will eliminate thousands of ticks every year by eating mice and other small mammals on which ticks feed. Ecosystems with thriving snake populations have smaller populations of ticks, so an increase in ticks may indicate a problem within the snake population. Scientists use this information to help prevent animal extinctions and monitor potential environmental problems.
They Help to Control Animal Populations
While we all know that these parasites carry tons of microorganisms, including a number of different bacteria. And of course, everyone is aware that ticks are the primary vector of dangerous and sometimes even deadly diseases, such as Lyme!
This all contributes to their major evolutionary purpose of controlling the population of various animal species all around the globe. Since ticks feed primarily on the blood of mammals, they often transmit those illnesses to their hosts. This allows for weaker and old animals to die, giving more space and opportunities for younger and healthier animals to thrive. Like it or not, ticks are a leading participant in the natural selection process of a number of animal species.