Pandas, foxes, sharks, even jellyfish and octopuses – a variety of animals can be represented by mobile emojis. But for researchers, the diversity of species in small digital images is not enough. Nature’s biodiversity is not represented in sufficient detail, and some groups of animals and plants are severely underrepresented, an Italian research team wrote in the journal “I-Science” He writes.
Biologists argue that more diversity in natural emojis would make people more aware of the importance of protecting species. “Although the biodiversity crisis seems far removed from the online world, in our increasingly digital society, we should not underestimate the power of emojis to increase awareness and appreciation for the diversity of life on Earth,” write researchers led by Gentile Francesco Vesitola of the University of Milan.
For their study, they examined the so-called Emojipedia, an online reference work for emojis, and indexed all images related to animals, plants and nature. Their conclusion: Animals were well represented, but plants, fungi and microorganisms were very poorly represented. But even among animals, some groups are underrepresented or only superficially depicted. While there are many emojis about vertebrates, there is a shortage of arthropods, such as insects, crustaceans, and spiders. This is despite the fact that the number of arthropod species in nature is much greater than the number of vertebrates.
Lack of social awareness of biodiversity
The research team counted emojis from 92 animals, 16 plants, a fungus (presumably the fly fungus), and a microorganism (presumably the intestinal bacteria E. coli). When it comes to animals, there is also a flaw in the accuracy of how individual animals are depicted. So there are emojis that clearly represent a bald eagle or a giant panda. Other animal species are only depicted in a very simplified form, such as ants, fish, and crocodiles.
This bias is consistent with the current lack of societal awareness of biodiversity, the researchers said. For something to become an emoji, it usually has to be searched on Google a certain number of times. Only then are animals or plants added to the catalog at irregular intervals.
But in the past seven years, little change has been observed in the diversity of emojis, according to biologists. They examined Emojipedia updates for the period from 2015 to 2022. In 2015, there were only 45 animal emojis, and in 2022 there were 92. The number of plant emojis has also increased.
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