The 3,500 members of the family Culicidae are famous for prowling the night in search of fresh, warm blood, leaving obnoxiously itchy welts in their wake and contributing to the spread of diseases like dirty hypodermics with wings.
By accidentally transferring germs from one victim to the next, mosquitoes contribute to millions more deaths each year than every other animal in nature combined. Beginning their lives as wriggling, aquatic larvae, they breed exponentially in even the smallest and filthiest bodies of water, surviving off bacteria alone until ready to take wing. Could there possibly be a bright side to these bloodthirsty assholes?
Hey, if you ever see a mosquito on us, don't take its picture. Please just tell us.
Well, the thing is, these blood drinkers are one of the most abundant sources of nourishment for a staggering number species in nearly every corner of the globe, and it's specifically because they're blood drinkers.
While adults are consumed by all manner of birds, bats, frogs, spiders and predatory insects, mosquito larvae are the most important food source for the bulk of developing freshwater fish, which in turn feed increasingly larger predators such as ourselves. As links in the food chain go, mosquitoes may rank among the world's most necessary insects.
Now, you're probably thinking that every animal is food to something anyway, and if the asshole mosquitoes were gone, maybe one of the less obnoxious, bite-y ones would step in to fill the void. But the fact that some mosquitoes feed on the protein-packed blood of vertebrates is actually what makes them such prolific breeders in the first place, and all that rich blood inside them is what makes them such a perfect meal.
So thanks to mosquitoes, millions of animals are feeding vicariously on our fluids each and every night, making mosquitoes a sort of nutrient redistribution system. It's hardly their fault that deadly microorganisms are bumming rides in their saliva.
We're not asking anybody to like the bastards, but if you've ever wondered what Mother Nature keeps them around for... it's not just because she's being a bitch.
Let's face it, if somebody tells you your food is "covered in bacteria," you're going to throw that shit out. And if somebody told you your body was full of E. coli bacteria, you'd get to a doctor before the uncontrollable shitting starts.
Now it's true that countless bacteria are waiting at any moment to invade and conquer our own bodies. Diarrhea, leprosy, anthrax, salmonella, syphilis, gangrene, pneumonia and strep are just a fraction of the diseases caused when certain bacteria multiply within our vulnerable tissue, and we spend billions of dollars a year on a never-ending war to purge them from our bodies, our food and our countertops.
But it's a war we don't actually want to win.
Consider this: The average human body is comprised of around ten trillion cells of its own. That's a lot. You know what else is a lot? A hundred trillion--roughly the number of bacteria living harmlessly in your intestinal tract as we speak.
A few are parasitic and others are irrelevant freeloaders, but the vast majority are living in symbiosis; a partnership where both life forms benefit from the presence of the other. Once the stomach breaks food down into a fine mush, everything we consume is in turn feasted upon by our tiny intestinal residents whose subsequent by-products (germ crap) comprise a significant portion of the nutrients our bodies absorb.
This is what comes to mind when we hear "symbiosis," because we haven't mentally developed beyond the age of eight.
Many starches, sugars, proteins and fiber are even impossible for our own enzymes to digest, but easily converted into the bacterial dookie you didn't know you craved. These "gut flora" collectively perform as much metabolic function as an entire organ, and while the average person hosts hundreds to thousands of different species, the most dominant is none other than Escherichia coli. They prefer to go by "E."
Yes, E. coli, the same bacteria who force us to recall perfectly good vegetables and apply heat to perfectly bloody meat, have already been a resident of your digestive tract since infancy.
One or more strains of E.coli began to colonize your body within days of your birth, and not only set to work pooping in your innards but immediately programmed your immune system to recognize them as friends. This is part of why so many other, rarer strains will make you sick; the first ones to arrive convince your body to keep out their competitors.
E Coli is like your asshole's bouncer, keeping ugly bastards like this guy out.
This is the reason why you can use all the antibacterial hand sanitizer you want, but nothing good can happen if you start shoving it up your ass. Well, it's one reason anyway.
To see how else animals are improving our lives, check out 6 Disgusting Ways Animals Can Improve Your Health. But don't go getting all buddy-buddy with them before reading The 6 Most Adorable Animals (To Ever Go On a Bloody Rampage).
And stop by this month's Top Picks because Cracked isn't the only good thing for you on the Internet.