Biodiversity communication in the digital era through the Emoji tree of life

Elsevier, iScience, Volume 26, 15 December 2023
Mammola S., Falaschi M., Ficetola G.F.

Emojis enable direct expressions of ideas and emotions in digital communication, also contributing to discussions on biodiversity conservation. Nevertheless, the ability of emojis to represent the Earth's tree of life remains unexplored. Here, we quantified the taxonomic comprehensiveness of currently available nature-related emojis and tested whether the expanding availability of emojis enables a better coverage of extant biodiversity. Currently available emojis encompass a broad range of animal species, while plants, fungi, and microorganisms are underrepresented. Within animals, vertebrates are significantly overrepresented compared to their actual richness, while arthropods are underrepresented. Notwithstanding these taxonomic disparities, animal taxa represented by emojis more than doubled from 2015 to 2022, allowing an improved representation of both taxonomic and phylogenetic diversity, driven by the recent addition of cnidarians and annelids. Creating an inclusive emoji set is essential to ensure a fair representation of biodiversity in digital communication and showcase its importance for biosphere functioning.