If you’re an ugly fish, who has somehow gotten hold of an electronic device where you could access this article (stranger things have happened), then there’s some good news for you. Unattractive fish are more likely to be saved than beautiful ones!
In a survey done by Nicolas Mouquet and his colleagues at the University of Montpellier, France, the researchers asked about 13,000 people to rate the aesthetic attractiveness of 481 reef fishes by showing them photographs of said fish and then used this data to train a convolutional neural network.
I need to take a deep breath because there is just too much to unpack here.
Who thought of this? Who shortlisted the fish for this ‘Hot or Not’ list? Why are people judging fish for being attractive? Was Lady Gaga wrong and God did make one mistake which was to not have me born as a fish in this life so that I can bypass humanity’s stringent beauty standards?
I am not sure the good people over at the fancy French university went through an existential crisis like I did before continuing on in their journey to understand if the fish world is the same as the human world where attractiveness is a huge advantage in all aspects.
The study, published in the open-access journal PLOS Biology, revealed that the researchers then used the trained neural network to generate predictions for additional 2,417 fish species that are considered to be ‘most-encountered’.
They discovered that the fish that were brighter, more colourful, and had rounder bodies tended to be rated as the most beautiful, but they also found out that the more attractive species tended to be less distinctive in terms of their ecological traits and evolutionary history.
The ugly ones were the species usually found on conservation red lists and are considered to be commercially viable as well because the fishery world has zero time for your beauty standards, thank you. These unattractive species were found to be extremely useful for the proper functioning of whole reefs and their loss could have a disproportionate impact on these ecosystems.
This was your ‘bizarre news I did not know I needed to see but now that I’ve seen it, it has made no difference to my life’ minute, you can now go and smell the roses or whatever kids are into these days. That’s all.