What's your favorite animal's favorite animal?

Plants By Tinybop

Think of your favorite animal. I like sloths.

Now let’s imagine what your favorite animal needs to survive. My sloth needs a tree to perch safely above its predators’ reach. It also needs leaves to eat. And what needs the sloth? The predators above (eagles) and below (jaguars) hunting it (for dinner). Then there are the moths and algae living in its fur. Did I mention that sloths eat that algae, too?

Take it a step further. What does the tree need to survive? The algae? The moths?

Every organism on Earth, from lumbering elephants to gut bacteria, needs an ecosystem — other organisms and a supportive environment — to survive. Small changes to an ecosystem send ripples through many species, including us Homo sapiens.

The study of relationships within an ecosystem is ecology. Here are some resources about plants, animals, and bacteria to inspire kids to think like ecologists. As you learn about different species, ask: what role does this species play in its ecosystem? How does the Earth support it? And how do we support the Earth?

  • When we think about biodiversity, we often think about species we can see. The blog Your Wild Life talks about those, yes, but it also explores the teeny species living in dust and intestines.
  • Want to learn more about tiny life? Check out biologist Sally Warring’s Instagram feed, Pondlife, which documents her exploration of single-celled life in New York City.
  • Smithsonian’s Natural History is an essential visual reference for kids curious about insects, plants, and animals.
  • See like a tiger and dive with a sea turtle with WWF’s Together. The app features beautiful, origami-inspired artwork and directions for making origami animals at home.
  • David Attenborough narrates Planet Earth, a series about Earth and the life it supports which was an instant classic. As Tinybop Production Designer Holly wrote, Planet Earth  “answered a lot of lingering questions I forgot I even had.”
  • In Pieces pairs beautiful geometric portraits of endangered species with information about each.
  • Minute Earth is a series of clever animated shorts conveying Earth’s complexity.
  • Earth hosts scores of unique ecosystems. In our app Plants, explore forest, grassland, and desert ecosystems. Observe how plants support animals and animals support plants, then find answers to your questions in the handbook.

As always, find more wonderful things for kids on Loves.