Make emojis more biodiverse to raise conservation awareness, scientists say | Science and technology news



Emojis should better reflect the breadth of biodiversity on planet Earth, scientists have said.

The library is too skewed towards animals like 🦁, 🐯 and 🐻 (oh my), according to a study in the journal iScience, leaving plants, fungi and microorganisms underrepresented.

Biologists who carried out the research said the icons were now such an important part of our modern lexicon that a more varied catalog could help conversations about biodiversity and conservation.

They added: “In our increasingly digitized society, we should not underestimate the potential of emojis to raise awareness and promote appreciation for the diversity of life on Earth.”

No matter which app you use, stock emojis are determined by the Unicode Emoji Subcommittee.

It updates the catalog regularly, such as adding more human skin tones and genders.

During their analysis of the current line-up, using the website Emojipedia, researchers from the University of Milan categorized each icon related to nature and animals.

They found 112 in all – 92 animals, 16 plants and a solitary fungus and microorganism.

Even among the animals, they found a diversity problem.

For example, while we get several bears (🐻 and 🐻‍❄️) and a specific bald eagle (🦅), others can only be identified at a genus or family level – like ants (🐜) or crocodiles (🐊).

Emojipedia even says of the crocodile icon: “Can resemble and be used for an alligator.”

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Overall, a whopping 76% of animal emojis are vertebrates.

Only 16% are arthropods (like insects and crustaceans), only 4% are mollusks, 2% are cnidarians (think underwater creatures like jellyfish and corals), and 1% are annelids (like worms and leeches).

And there are none at all representing nematodes or platyhelminths. That’s right, not one tapeworm emoji.

Researchers said the gap was “problematic” even though it noted emoji biodiversity appeared to be increasing.

Compared to 2015, the number of animal icons has more than doubled – and annelids were not represented at all until 2020’s addition of an indeterminate worm.

Cnidarians got their first emoji a year later via a coral.

Researchers said a constantly updated catalog would help people “discuss a range of biodiversity-related topics and emotions more effectively, beyond the icons depicting iconic species”.


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