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10.23: Importance of Mammals

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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How are mammals helpful?

An example of a helpful mammal is a service dog. Like many dogs, service dogs can pick up or retrieve objects for their owners. They can also perform many other tasks for a disabled person, depending on the type of disability.

Importance of Mammals

Mammals play many important roles in ecosystems, and they also benefit people.

Importance to Ecosystems

Mammals have important roles in the food webs of practically every ecosystem. They also interact with other species in many symbiotic relationships. For example, bats have established mutually beneficial relationships with plants. Nectar-feeding bats receive a tasty treat from each flower, and, in return, they pollinate the flowers. That means they transfer pollen from one flower to another, allowing the plant to reproduce. Fruit-eating bats (Figure below) also receive food from plants. In return, they help these plants spread their seeds. When bats consume fruit, they also consume the seeds within the fruit. Then they carry the seeds in their guts to far-away locations.

Bats, like this Egyptian fruit bat, play an important role in seed dispersal.

Importance to Humans

We see examples of mammals (other than people!) serving our needs everywhere. We have pets that are mammals, such as dogs and cats. Mammals are also used around the world for transport. For example, horses, donkeys, mules, or camels (Figure below) may be the primary means of transport in some parts of the world. Mammals also do work for us. Service dogs can be trained to help the disabled. Horses and elephants can carry heavy loads. Humans also use some mammals for food. For example, cows and goats are commonly raised for their milk and/or meat. Mammals’ more highly developed brains have made them ideal for use by scientists in studying such things as learning, as seen in maze studies of mice and rats.

This camel provides transportation to a woman in Egypt.

Cultural Importance

Mammals have also played a significant role in different cultures’ folklore and religion. For example, the grace and power of the cougar have been admired in the cultures of the native peoples of the Americas. The Inca city of Cuzco is designed in the shape of a cougar, and the thunder god of the Inca, Viracocha, has been associated with the animal. In North America, mythological descriptions of the cougar have appeared in the stories of several American Indian tribes.


  • pollinate: Transfer of pollen from one flower to another to allow reproduction.
  • service dog: Dog that has been trained to assist disabled people.


  • Ecologically, nectar-feeding and fruit-eating bats play an important role in plant pollination and seed dispersal, respectively.
  • Mammals meet people's needs by serving as pets, transport, food, or research subjects.


Use the resources below to answer the questions that follow.

  1. What breeds of dogs were originally used for sled pulling?
  2. What kind of weather is optimal for sled dogs?
  3. Why do the dogs like these conditions?
  4. What are the two most common types of sleds?
  1. How many sled dogs are there living above the Arctic Circle?
  2. How far can a sled dog team travel in a day?
  3. What advantages do sled dogs have over snowmobiles? Think carefully, and be as specific as you can.
  4. What are some ways in which the Inuit depend on sled dogs?


  1. How do mammals impact ecosystems?
  2. How do mammals help people?

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Transfer of pollen from one flower to another to allow reproduction.

service dog

Dog that has been trained to assist disabled people.

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Difficulty Level:
At Grade
7 , 8
Date Created:
Nov 29, 2012
Last Modified:
Aug 23, 2016
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