“Ugly” reef fish are more likely to be endangered than their more attractive cousins, according to a study.

Under the sea, it really is the survival of the fittest.

A new study has found that reef fish that humans find “ugly” are more likely to be in danger than their more beautiful cousins.

Researchers from the University of Montpellier, Franceused machine learning to classify thousands of different fish species based on their attractiveness to humans.

They then compared that ranking with the species’ placement on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, which assesses its conservation status.

It was found that fish species listed as “threatened” tended to be considered less beautiful than those classified as “minimal risk”.

Even the simplest fish were more likely to be caught and therefore were of greater commercial importance.

Scientists concluded that the conservation of less attractive species should have a higher priority.

Holacanthus ciliaris, also known as queen angelfish, has been very attractively classified due to its bright colors and rounder silhouette

Holacanthus ciliaris, also known as queen angelfish, has been very attractively classified due to its bright colors and rounder silhouette

Diplodus annularis, or annular bream, was considered one of the least beautiful reef fish. It is a very important fishery for artisan fishermen and is often found in local fish markets

Diplodus annularis, or annular bream, was considered one of the least beautiful reef fish. It is a very important fishery for artisan fishermen and is often found in local fish markets

Graphs showing the negative correlation between the aesthetic value and (left) the age of the species and (right) the functional distinctiveness of the species. The simple line represents the results that did not take into account the phylogenetic correlation and the dashed line yes

Graphs showing the negative correlation between the aesthetic value and (left) the age of the species and (right) the functional distinctiveness of the species. The simple line represents the results that did not take into account the phylogenetic correlation and the dashed line yes

HOW MACHINE LEARNING WORKS

Researchers asked 13,000 members of the public to rate the aesthetic beauty of 481 photographs of ray-finned reef fish in an online survey.

They removed the background of each photo and made sure that all the fish were facing the same direction and that the camera had a similar point of view.

The data collected from the survey was then used to train a “convolutional neural network”, an artificial intelligence tool capable of processing images.

The neural network was able to predict human attraction for an additional 4,400 photographs with 2,417 of the most encountered reef fish species

After combining public assessments with neural network predictions, the researchers found that bright, colorful fish species with rounder bodies tended to be rated the most beautiful.

Senior researcher Nicolas Mouquet said, “Our study provides, for the first time, the aesthetic value of 2,417 reef fish species.

‘We found that the least beautiful fish are the most ecologically and evolutionarily distinct species and those recognized as endangered.

‘Our study highlights likely major discrepancies between potential public conservation support and the species most in need of such support.’

The team asked 13,000 members of the public to rate the aesthetic beauty of 481 photographs of ray-finned reef fish found online in a survey in 2019.

They removed the background from each photo and made sure that all the fish were facing the same direction and that the camera had a similar point of view.

The data collected from the survey was then used to train a “convolutional neural network”, an artificial intelligence tool capable of processing images.

The neural network was able to predict human injury from another 4,400 photographs with 2,417 of the most encountered reef fish species.

After combining public assessments with neural network predictions, the researchers found that bright, colorful fish species with rounder bodies tended to be rated the most beautiful.

Scientists found that species listed as “Threatened” by the IUCN, or whose conservation status has not yet been assessed, had on average less aesthetic value than species classified as “Least Concern”.

Examples of fish representative of the range of expected aesthetic values, decreasing in aesthetic value from left to right and top to bottom: Holacanthus ciliaris, Aracana aurita, Amphiprion ephippium, Ctenochaetus marginatus, Scarus spinus, Amphiprion bicinctus, Epinephelides armatus, Fusigobius signipinnis , Diplodus annularis, Odontoscion dentex, Nemadactylus bergi, Mendosoma lineatum

Examples of fish representative of the range of expected aesthetic values, decreasing in aesthetic value from left to right and top to bottom: Holacanthus ciliaris, Aracana aurita, Amphiprion ephippium, Ctenochaetus marginatus, Scarus spinus, Amphiprion bicinctus, Epinephelides armatus, Fusigobius signipinnis , Diplodus annularis, Odontoscion dentex, Nemadactylus bergi, Mendosoma lineatum

The mandarin fish, Synchiropus Gorgeousus, is among the reef fish species with the highest aesthetic values.

Striped cowfish (left) and mandarin fish (right) are among the reef fish species with the highest aesthetic values, according to a detection and machine learning algorithm

Additionally, species classified as less attractive were found to be more distinctive in terms of ecological traits, such as habitat type and body size.

They were also more phylogenetically isolated, so they had a more distinctive evolutionary history.

This means that they contribute more to the biodiversity of a coral reef and play a greater role in its functioning.

Losing their contribution to the gene pool could have greater consequences on the ecosystem than that of an aesthetically pleasing fish.

The researchers also compared the aesthetic value of the species with their importance for fishing.

Unattractive species also tended to be of greater commercial interest, as the aesthetic value was unrelated to those of greater value in traditional small-scale fisheries.

Humans have preferences for shape, and colors are likely a consequence of the way the brain processes them, the authors concluded.

However, discrepancies between aesthetic value, ecological function and vulnerability to extinction may mean that species most in need of public support are less likely to receive it.

The results of the study were published today in the open access journal PLOS biology.

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef fish are losing their COLOR as coral reefs decline

New study shows Australia’s Great Barrier Reef fish are losing their color as coral reefs degrade and die during bleaching events

Researchers from James Cook University in Townsville in QueenslandAustralia has found a link between dull colored fish and corals that have undergone coral bleaching and turned white.

In particular, they found that the abundance of yellow and green fish has steadily declined by about three-quarters over the past 27 years.

Currently, experts do not know the exact reason for the link between dull-colored fish and bleached coral, or if one causes the other.

Fish inhabiting coral reefs are extremely diverse in color, although the specific environmental factors that lead to this remain unclear.

Read more here

James Cook University researchers have found that brightly colored fish are becoming increasingly rare as coral declines, with the phenomenon likely to get worse in the future. In the photo the lemon damselfish (Pomacentrus moluccensis), one of the species examined for the study

James Cook University researchers have found that brightly colored fish are becoming increasingly rare as coral declines, with the phenomenon likely to get worse in the future. In the photo the lemon damselfish (Pomacentrus moluccensis), one of the species examined for the study

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