Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Children Overestimate Cute Animals In Rainforests, While Underestimating Insects And Annelids

Date:
July 7, 2008
Source:
Public Library of Science
Summary:
Researchers investigated children's perceptions of rainforest biodiversity by asking young museum visitors to draw their ideal rainforest, as part of a competition, and found that while children have a sophisticated understanding of rainforest ecosystems, they tend to overestimate the relative numbers of some taxa (mainly "cuter" mammals, birds and reptiles) while underestimating the proportions of less charismatic taxa, such as insects and annelids.

Species scapes representing the relative importance of the different rainforest faunal taxa. (A) Species scape representing the relative frequency at which primary children (aged three-eleven) drew different taxa and (B) the relative contribution of the taxa to rainforest biomass. Size of the drawings represents the relative contribution of each taxa with the animals each representing: leopard -- mammals, toucan -- birds, butterfly -- non-social insects, lizard -- reptiles, spider -- spiders, ant -- social insects, frog -- amphibians, and worm -- annelids.
Credit: Snaddon JL, Turner EC, Foster WA (10.1371/journal.pone.0002579)

Globally, natural ecosystems are being lost to agricultural land at an unprecedented rate. This land-use often results in significant reductions in abundance and diversity of the flora and fauna as well as alterations in their composition.

Despite this, there is little public understanding of which taxa are most important in terms of their total biomass, biodiversity or the ecosystem services they perform and an important issue is how to guarantee that there is a next generation that is both knowledgeable about and concerned about the natural environment.

Edgar Turner and colleagues at the University of Cambridge investigated children's perceptions of rainforest biodiversity by asking young visitors to the University Museum of Zoology in Cambridge, UK to draw their ideal rainforest, as part of a competition, and found that while children have a sophisticated understanding of rainforest ecosystems, they tend to overestimate the relative numbers of some taxa (mainly "cuter" mammals, birds and reptiles) while underestimating the proportions of other, less charismatic taxa, such as insects and annelids.

The competition, which was held as part of a public event at the museum, allowed the researchers to record the frequency at which three- to 11-year-old children drew different climatic, structural, vegetative and faunal components of the rainforest. They could then quantify children's understanding of a rainforest environment by comparing the relative numbers of the taxa drawn with the actual contributions made by these taxa to total rainforest biomass and global biodiversity.

Turner and colleagues found that children's awareness of rainforest biodiversity is highly developed, with the majority of the children depicting a rainforest with a diverse animal fauna, even though most have presumably never visited a rainforest. This knowledge of the natural world is crucial for inspiring and recruiting the next generation of naturalists and conservationists.

However, the low representation of social insects and annelids in the children's drawings relative to the actual numbers of these taxa within the ecosystems is rather concerning. The researchers suggest this could either be due to children's greater awareness of larger taxa (thanks, perhaps, to more frequent depictions in the media) or because the children thought that the larger, more charismatic creatures would create a "prettier" drawing and thus give them a better chance of winning the competition.

Turner and colleagues concluded that scientists and naturalists must continue to emphasise the diversity and functional importance of lesser-known taxa through public communication and outdoor events (such as this week's National Insect Week in the UK) to aid invertebrate conservation and to ensure that future generations are inspired to become naturalists themselves.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Public Library of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Snaddon JL, Turner EC, Foster WA. Children's Perceptions of Rainforest Biodiversity: Which Animals Have the Lion's Share of Environmental Awareness? PLoS One, 3(7): e2579 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0002579

Cite This Page:

Public Library of Science. "Children Overestimate Cute Animals In Rainforests, While Underestimating Insects And Annelids." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 July 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080701221452.htm>.
Public Library of Science. (2008, July 7). Children Overestimate Cute Animals In Rainforests, While Underestimating Insects And Annelids. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080701221452.htm
Public Library of Science. "Children Overestimate Cute Animals In Rainforests, While Underestimating Insects And Annelids." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080701221452.htm (accessed July 24, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Observation Boat to Protect Cetaceans During Ship Transfer

Observation Boat to Protect Cetaceans During Ship Transfer

AFP (July 22, 2014) As part of the 14-ship convoy that will accompany the Costa Concordia from the port of Giglio to the port of Genoa, there will be a boat carrying experts to look out for dolphins and whales from crossing the path of the Concordia. Duration: 01:02 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Orleans Plans to Recycle Cigarette Butts

New Orleans Plans to Recycle Cigarette Butts

AP (July 21, 2014) New Orleans is the first U.S. city to participate in a large-scale recycling effort for cigarette butts. The city is rolling out dozens of containers for smokers to use when they discard their butts. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shark Sightings a Big Catch for Cape Tourism

Shark Sightings a Big Catch for Cape Tourism

AP (July 21, 2014) A rise in shark sightings along the shores of Chatham, Massachusetts is driving a surge of eager vacationers to the beach town looking to catch a glimpse of a great white. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Spectacular Lightning Storm Hits London

Spectacular Lightning Storm Hits London

AFP (July 19, 2014) A spectaCular lightning storm struck the UK overnight Friday. Images of lightning strikes over the Shard and Tower Bridge in central London. Duration: 00:23 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins